The Evaluation of Five Websites About Cloning Based on Their Credibility
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Ever since the birth of the first cloned sheep, named Dolly, the dream of human cloning has existed (Van Dijck, 1999). Cloning a mammal is described as the manipulation of an animal or human cell in order to create an identical copy of that animal’s or human’s nucleic DNA (Andrews, 1997). Though the dream of a human clone also comes with a lot of controversy regarding ethics and morals. Embryotic stem cell research, which could lead to a renewable source of human tissue, cells and eventually entire organs (Bowring, 2004), is highly controversial due to the necessity of placing a cloned embryo into a woman’s body in order to achieve that research.
Politicians differentiate between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning as they refer to the second as “implanting a cloned embryo in a woman’s womb” (Bowring, 2004), as for the embryo itself the research is not very therapeutic. Furthermore cloning by transfer of nuclei is not very effective yet as only 1% of manipulated sheep eggs reach adulthood and the number is even lower for other animals (Solter, 2000). The question whether human cloning will ever be possible and ethical remains to be answered but it seems certain that extra research in embryotic stem cells will improve techniques and success rates, which eventually brings the realization of a human clone closer one step at a time.
I ranked the five websites: “Dogs Cloned From Adult Somatic Cells”, “Human Cloning”, “Clones: A Hard Act to Follow”, “Cloning Fact Sheet” and “Dream Tech International Clones-R-Us” from 1 to 5, where 1 is most accurate and suitable website and 5 is the poorest website.
1. “Dogs Cloned from Adult Somatic Cells”
This article describes the first successful cloning of Afghan dogs, through somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This process has a fairly low success rate due to the difficulty of developing canine eggs (oocytes) in an artificial environment. Two dogs were successfully cloned in this experiment, which equates to a success rate of 1.6%. The genetic identity of the dogs was tested via microsatellite analysis of genomic DNA from the donor Afghan dog and resulted in a perfect DNA match of the cloned and donor dog (Lee, B.C et al., 2005).
I chose this article as the most appropriate and suitable one, as it was published in a peer-reviewed science journal named Nature and contains a full reference list, as well as in text citation. Peer-reviewed articles have their information verified by researchers in the same field and therefore contain valid information. As it was the first cloned dog, independent investigators tested the DNA of the clone and published in a peer-reviewed Journal that Snuppy, the name of the dog, is identical to its Afghan donor and not his surrogate mother (Levine, 2009), which makes this article very authentic and earns it my highest rating.
2. “Clones: Hard Act to Follow”
The article “Clones: Hard Act to Follow” elaborates on the reasons behind the small success rate for the cloning of animals. It reports than only 1 to 3 offspring are produced for every 100 embryos placed into a carrier’s womb. Scientists are asking whether the rate is as low as that due to complications with artificial environments (in vitro) or due to the fact that animals are not meant to reproduce asexually. The complications in cloning for different animals including primates, cows, mice, and pigs are assessed by this article and the authors conclude that human cloning will not be possible in the near future (Pennisi and Vogel, 2000). This article places second as it was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science and has been cited by other peer-reviewed articles.
The article uses in text citation but lacks a list of references at the bottom of the article. As this article summarizes and elaborates on the results of cloning from several experiments it lacks its own primary experimental data unlike the first placed website. The information given is accurate though as its comparable to the success rate given in Solder’s peer-reviewed article (2000), which mentions the cloning rate to be as low as 0.3% for cows and up to 1% for sheep. This article is not ranked at the top of the list due to the missing reference list and due to the old ness of the article. In a world where cloning has barely begun, a 12 year-old article that summarizes information on recent cloning experiments might not be the most accurate and suitable website, even though the problems mentioned in this article still trouble scientists today.
3. “Cloning Fact Sheet”
The “Cloning Fact Sheet” website offers general information about cloning and is in a way comparable to “Wikipedia.org”. Three different types of cloning are explained including: “recombinant DNA technology”, “reproductive cloning” and “therapeutic cloning”. The website also elaborates on the history of animal cloning as it lists all animals that have successfully been cloned before, which includes: tadpole, sheep, goats, cows, mice, pigs, cats, rabbits, and a gaur. Furthermore it discusses the implication of cloned organs as transplants and touches up on the risk of cloning. The ethical side of cloning is also discussed shortly.
Even though the website is not a peer-reviewed journal or article and does not provide proper references, it provides accurate, though old, information about cloning. The information specified can be backed up by a peer-reviewed article (Bowring, 2004), but as references are missing this website does not qualify as a highly suitable website. Furthermore the information given is moderately old, as for example; the list of cloned animals misses to mention the cloning of a dog, which was successfully achieved in 2005 (Levine, 2009). Proper referencing and peer reviewing could have helped to make this website more credible but with those factors missing the “Cloning Fact Sheet” website only qualifies as a moderately proper website and is therefore ranked as number 3.
4. “Health Canada – Human Cloning”
The article ”Human Cloning” on the “Health-Canada” website explains the issues surrounding therapeutic and reproductive human cloning. Additionally it introduces some advances in human cloning in the UK and South Korea. In Canada the majority of people oppose human cloning and the AHR legislation prohibits human cloning. The article describes with some detail how stem cells were cloned in South Korea, which put a suspension on the research, and how the United Kingdom’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has granted the International Centre for Life at Newcastle University a one-year license to pursue therapeutic cloning.
This article is neither peer-reviewed nor does it use proper references, which is why I ranked this website as unacceptable and as the second worst website. The website did not provide a reference for the one-year license to pursue therapeutic cloning and after further analysis the reference given for the cloned stem cells in South Korea turned out to be retracted from the Journal of Science, which makes most of this article unacceptable. As the only reference given “Hwang et al., “Evidence of a Pluripotent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line Derived from a Cloned Blastocyst”, Science 2004 0:10945151-0” was retracted from Science the entire website loses credibility and the announced data is no longer valuable, which results in the bad rating for this website.
5. “Dream Tech International Clones-R-Us”
This website claims to be the largest cloning provider worldwide with fully owned labs in Costa Rica, Liberia, and Vanuatu. Furthermore it claims to have surrogate-birthing candidates available and promises the best prices worldwide. The website also promises highest quality and insures that “duplication requirements are handled quickly and efficiently.” Furthermore prices for clones are listed and the website offers clones of famous personalities like Pierce Brosnan or Michael Jordan. I ranked this website at the very bottom of the list and would describe it as highly unacceptable or as a “fake” website. Clicking on the “about us” section will inform the reader that this website is indeed a “spoof” website that offers a non-existing product, a human clone.
It states that this website is supposed to get the reader thinking about the issue of reproductive cloning as anti-cloning laws are already being made without any significant public discussion. Every link provided on the homepage of this website leads to another website (mostly advertisement). In addition to that it is well known that human cloning is not in the reach of today’s science (Bowring, 2004), which identifies the website as absolutely unreasonable. Even though a range of animals has successfully been cloned, a human being is not one of them, which is why this website ranks as the worst website by far. The effects of human cloning are yet to be discovered but research in animal cloning suggests that human cloning would waste many embryos and foetuses and that a human clone would expect to be suffering from impaired health and development (Bowring, 2004). This website places last by far due to all the reason above.
Cloning has been a highly controversially discussed topic since the birth of Dolly-the first cloned sheep. Yet researchers and scientists are wondering about the low success rates of animal cloning (Pennisi and Vogel, 2000). The question whether nature is at fault or technical issues seems to be open for further discussion, but the existence of a human clone at this point is not a realistic scenario yet. Scientific breakthroughs like the cloning of a dog (Lee, B.C et al., 2005) also give rise to the ethical debate of human cloning (Bowring, 2004); considering all aspects one might oppose the wish of a human clone as it would be connected to an ethical debate that could separate us all.
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No Author.1997.Dream Tech International – Clones R Us [online]. http://www.jbcorps.com/clones/index.html [accessed 28 February 2012].
Pennisi, E., and Vogel, G. 2000. Clones: A hard act to follow. Science.288 (5472):1722-1727.doi:10.1126/science.288.547.1722.
U.S. Department of Energy Genome Program’s Biological and Environmental Research Information System.2009.Cloning Fact Sheet [online]. Available from http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml [accessed 14 February 2012].
Van Dijck, J. (1999). Cloning humans, cloning literature: genetics and the imagination deficit. New Genetics & Society, 18(1), 9.