This word raises a lot of debate and curiosity among people. In the scientific world, there are two main divisions regarding this subject: those who support and think it is necessary to explore such techniques particularly to treat some human diseases and disorders and others who think it is unethical to even imagine it. Before you decide to take a side, let us delve deeper into this subject.
Cloning is the process of producing similar populations of genetically identical individuals that occurs in nature when organisms such as bacteria, insects, or plants reproduce asexually. A mouthful of words, right? Simply put, cloning is the process of producing identical individuals with the same genes. Cloning happens in nature and it is out of this process that scientists can learn to clone other biological entities such as animals and plants.
Cloning in nature
Cloning in nature occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria divide asexually. In asexual reproduction, only one parent is involved. Hence the parents divide to form two cells and the two cells divide each to collectively form 4 cells. This goes on and on. In such types, the daughter cells have the same genetic material as the first cell or parent cell.
Another way cloning can occur in nature is through the production of identical twins which occurs in humans and other mammals. In this instance, after the male and female gamete fuses, they form a zygote. The zygote splits into two separate entities and grows as two separate embryos with the same genes. Even with that, they have different fingerprints when they are born.
Cloning humans is a question of ‘should we’ rather than ‘can we’. In cloning, the copied material which has the same genetic material as the original one is called a clone. Scientists have been able to clone different biological entities such as cells, tissues, genes and a whole organism such as sheep. It is popularly known as the dolly sheep and it was cloned in 1996. It lived normally at a research laboratory and eventually died at age 6 after contracting a disease.
How cloning is done
Usually, after the sperm meets the egg, it fuses to form one cell. The cell divides to form 2, 4, 8, 16cell all enclosed in one sac and eventually becomes specialized, develops and grow in size to form a baby.
Sometimes after the first division to form 2 cells, the cells divide separately and begin the process again to form identical twins with the same genetic material. This process is not entirely understood but scientists know more about unidentical twins since the process is different. (In this instance, the ovary which is the organ responsible for releasing eggs, releases two eggs instead of the usual one. Two different sperms fertilize each egg and that results in the formation of two babies who are unidentical).
Originally, cloning used to refer to the splitting of the embryo at the early stages just like what happens in the creation of identical twins. This has been done in animals such as cattle.
Currently, the term clone has taken a different direction. It is no longer embryo splitting but a process called nuclear transfer. In this process, you can actually make a copy of a certain individual.
Step by step process
1. First of all, the DNA which carries the genetic material is extracted from an older adult. Not every DNA can be used: There are cells called somatic cells with a complete set of chromosomes hence no sexual reproduction is needed. They are usually found in white blood cells, the skin or even the cheeks.
2. Next, an unfertilized egg is donated by a female. The female egg is selected because of its ability to house an embryo or a fetus during reproduction. However, since the cell is not needed for reproduction, the nucleus which instructs the egg to grow and divide is removed.
3. It is delicately replaced with the DNA from the somatic cell. The somatic cell as made mentioned contains the complete set of chromosomes so there is no need for fertilization. This process used to be a major challenge but due to growing research, scientists have bypassed this problem: Instructing an egg cell with no nucleus to accept the nucleus from the somatic cell. It is a new arrangement and the two must learn to accept each other.
4. Under normal conditions, the egg would need to be fertilized before it can divide. In this instance, no fertilization occurs because the somatic cell from the adult already contains complete DNA. Scientists need to trick the cell into believing that it has been fertilized. They perform different techniques using electricity or chemicals. If it works, they inject the embryo into a female due to the viable conditions rather than building an expensive laboratory and mimicking the conditions necessary for growth.
5. If the process works, then the manipulated DNA stabilizes and begins to divide just like the egg would. This continues to grow and develop into a genetic replica of the original individual. This creates an identical twin who is not the same age as the original but younger. Other times, the process is stopped and stem cells are harvested.
Some scientist in Korea have cloned human embryos but they claim are mainly for research purposes especially in transplantation.
For instance, if someone has a terminal cardiac failure; a heart transplant is needed or perhaps an end-stage renal failure; a new kidney may be required. Fortunately for some organs such as kidneys, they are 2 in the human body and a relative can always donate one to save the loved one’s life. However, because they are two different human beings and may have unique features, the body might reject such organs.
Scientists and clinicians must search for a donor who has major similarities with the recipient or sick individual. If that is achieved, then transplantation of the organ or tissue can be done. Even with such scenarios, the recipient’s body might reject it later in life. Most people, die whilst waiting for someone to donate. For others, the cost is unbearable and the strain it brings on the family is permanent.
Fortunately, with cloning, if performed well, an individual might donate his DNA and scientist will work on it to produce what is termed as stem cells. These stem cells can grow into any type of tissue. This type of tissue will be kept and whenever an induvial is involved in an accident or life-threatening conditions that require transplantation or deadly diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease the cells will be injected back into the system to replace those malfunctioned ones. Interesting, right?
However, the theory seems so straightforward but is a laborious process. Scientists say it is far from done. Besides, there are so many ethical issues surrounding this subject. In the process of obtaining the stem cell, the human embryo must be terminated. These are embryos that could have become human beings. Hence, people strongly reject this proposal. Furthermore, the process is laborious and invasive. Also, the participants have to be paid to participate in this research. How much money is it worth? The techniques used during the stages are sometimes invasive and unethical. These and many reasons why most people reject this proposition.
What is your take on cloning? Should it be encouraged? Would you want this process to be performed if you needed saving and that was the only remedy available?
Do not forget to add your comments and like.
1. The facts and fiction of cloning. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/cloning-facts-fiction#1
2. How does cloning work? Retrieved from https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/how-does-cloning-work/.
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