Writing Rhetorically 1:50
21 November 2012
The Uses and Risks of Cloning
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have an exact replica of yourself? For many years scientists have been trying to understand and improve the process of cloning. According to the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, “Cloning is the creation of an organism that is an exact genetic copy of another. This means that every single bit of DNA is the same between the two!” There are many ways cloning is used that scientists are working on. For example, there is therapeutic cloning, reproductive cloning, animal models of disease, and pharming. However, even though science is progressing there are many risks of cloning.
The first use of cloning is therapeutic cloning. This type of cloning shows the most potential for medical improvement. Therapeutic cloning is used to make an embryonic clone. First, DNA is taken out of the person and inserted into an egg cell, which is the female reproductive cell. Once the cell is fooled into believing it has been fertilized in a body it starts to divide. When the cells grow into an embryo and stem cells are taken out of it and grown in a lab to make replacement organs, such as hearts, livers and skin. They can also be injected into a patient to grow tissues or organs to treat various ailments and diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or Rett syndrome. (Bonsor, Kevin)
Reproductive cloning is similar to therapeutic cloning. The procedure is relatively the same in that DNA is taken out, inserted into a cell, the cell divides, and forms an embryo. The difference is that “the resulting embryo is then implanted into the uterus of a surrogate mother, where it can develop until birth.” (Mollard, Richard, Dr.) Reproductive cloning does not make a genetically new person. Instead, it creates a genetic duplicate of the person’s DNA. This procedure can help infertile couples have a child, and it could even be used to replace a deceased child or pet. Yes, this process is also used to create animals. In fact, the first mammal ever to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, meaning “any cell in the body other than the two types of reproductive cells”, was a sheep named Dolly and they used reproductive cloning to produce her. (Genetic Science Learning Center. "What is Cloning?.")
Another use of cloning is to create animal models of disease. To create these animals a scientist genetically engineers it to carry a disease. This is how researchers mainly study human diseases because it is less risky than potentially harming a human. The process in creating these animals is time-intensive that requires trial-and-error and several generations of breeding. However, cloning might reduce the time needed to make an animal model which would produce numerous genetically identical animals for study. This in turn leads to more research and perhaps cures for many diseases. (Genetic, "Why Clone?.")
The next utilization for cloning is to produce large herds of genetically engineered animals for pharming, just like in creating animal models of disease. Pharming is basically just a term that combines "farming" and "pharmaceuticals". It is a technology that scientists use to alter an animal’s DNA. This process is mostly used to make human proteins for medical use. The protein is inserted into the animal's milk, eggs or blood, and then collected and purified. Livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits and pigs have already been altered in this way to produce several useful proteins and drugs. The first successful products of genetic engineering were protein drugs like insulin. Just by drinking the milk of a cow that has been injected with the protein for insulin, a patient can be treated for diabetes. (Genetic, "Pharming for Farmaceuticals.") Although researchers have made strides in enhancing cloning there are many risks to the humans and animals that are cloned. First, is the high failure rate. “The success rate ranges from 0.1 percent to 3 percent, which means that for every 1000 tries, only one to 30 clones are made.” (Genetic,"What are the Risks of Cloning?.") Some reasons for this are the body might reject the cell, the may not begin to divide or develop properly, implantation of the embryo into the surrogate mother might fail, or the pregnancy itself might fail. Another risk is having problems later on in life. Clones that do survive are likely to develop "Large Offspring Syndrome" (LOS), which means they have abnormally large organs than people or animals that are born naturally. This can cause kidney or brain malformations and impaired immune systems. The clone can also develop abnormal gene expression patterns. Basically, this means that a certain type of cell like blood, skin, or bone won’t preform its natural job in the body. This can cause the embryo to develop abnormally or won’t develop at all. The last risk is telomeric differences. As a cell divides and their chromosomes, which carry DNA, reduce in size. This occurs because telomeres, which make up the ends of the chromosomes, shrink with age. The older someone is the shorter the telomeres will be. Scientists are trying to figure out if the cell that is used to make the clone is quite old already if that will affect the clone’s lifespan. They still have no positive answers. (Genetic,"What are the Risks of Cloning?.")
There have been numerous science fiction movies where a scientist has made a clone of a person or animal and people might have thought that was impossible. For right now it is impossible to create an “instant clone” but in the near future that might not be a far-fetched idea. Science is always improving. Although there are many risks in cloning, it has expanded medicine, enhanced our knowledge of diseases, and invented new ways to take antibiotics.