Human Cloning

Human Cloning 02Human cloning is finally here, and it is going to “spark” a political conflagration.

The cloning era began when “Dolly” the sheep was manufactured in 1996.

Dolly was cloned via “somatic cell nuclear transfer” (SCNT).

This is accomplished by removing the “nucleus” from a skin or other cell.

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Professor Ian Wilmut and Dolly

In Dolly’s case, a “mammary” gland cell, hence her naming after Dolly Parton.

That nucleus is then “inserted” into an egg whose nucleus has been “removed.”

The engineered egg is “stimulated,” and if the cloning works, an “embryo” comes into being through “asexual” reproduction.

Once that happens, the “cloning is complete.”

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Human “cloning” has been even more “technically” challenging.

But an international group of scientists announced in the June 6 “Cell”–a prominent, peer-reviewed scientific journal–that they created scores of “cloned human embryos”, developing four of them in a dish for about 10 days to the “blast cyst” stage of about 150-200 cells.

This is the stage at which embryos created in “vitro” are usually implanted if they are to be “gestated” to birth.

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However, that was not the “purpose” of the recent experiments.

Instead, the “cloned embryos” were destroyed and “embryonic stem cell” lines created–a process sometimes called “therapeutic cloning.”

While these scientists have no interest in “reproductive” cloning, if a cloned “baby” is ever born, their experiments will have been a “big step” toward making it possible.

The successful cloning of human beings — “whether for research or birth” — is momentous.

Even if the technique is used only in pursuit of “biological knowledge and medical treatments,” those will come at the very high “ethical” price of manufacturing human life for the purpose of “harvesting” it like a corn crop–that is, for the “purpose of destroying it.“

“Cloning, moreover, is essential to foreseeable endeavors such as the genetic engineering of embryos, the creation of human/animal chimeras, the gestation of cloned fetuses in artificial wombs as a means of obtaining patient-compatible organs, and eventually the birth of cloned babies.”

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SCNT requires “one” egg for each attempt at cloning, but human eggs for use in research are in “short” supply.

So the biotech industry is seeking “legal” authorization to “pay” women for their eggs.

The “harvesting” of eggs, however, can “harm” the supplier.

The potential side effects include “infection, loss of fertility, stroke, and in rare cases death.”

The recent “Cell” paper paid a great deal of “attention” to the egg issue.

Apparently, not just “any eggs” can be used if “cloning” is to be successful.

“SCNT reprogramming is dependent on human oocyte egg quality,” the authors write.

Indeed, most of the eggs the researchers used provided “poor” embryos, but the four highest-quality cloned embryos “those from which embryonic stem cells were derived” all grew from eggs supplied by the same donor.

Yikes.

Not only will cloning encourage treating women’s “reproductive assets” as marketable commodities, but a concentrated search may soon be on for women who can produce “prime cloning-quality eggs” furthering the objectification of female “biological” functions.

Expect an additional political “conflagration” over legal efforts to protect women from being “exploited” by the biotechnology industry….it is also an “ethical” earthquake.

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Because these experiments offer the potential to advance scientific knowledge, they will tempt us–“always for the best reasons”–to set aside our convictions about the intrinsic “dignity” of all human life.

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