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Human Cloning: Genetic Advancement or Genetic Manipulation?

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Human Cloning: Genetic Advancement or Genetic Manipulation?

Some people might argue that the real offense would be to hinder the progress of science and experimental investigation with regard to human cloning. That to do so would mean to deny the right to scientifically explore and gain from such. Exploration and discovery in advanced technologies and science quite often proves to be beneficial to mankind; however, even though human cloning capabilities may tempt man's inherently diabolical God-playing nature, research, advancement and the expected benefits of human cloning are likely to dispel predicted human catastrophes. In the alternative, can advances in human cloning lead us into genetic manipulation and world chaos because of popular myths about cloning and the rapid progress in biotechnology?

First, what exactly is cloning? In biology, cloning is used in two contexts: cloning a gene, or cloning an organism. Cloning is the reproduction of a human or animal whose genetic substance is identical to an existing being, such as an embryo or fetus. This is reproductive. Cloning a gene means to extract a gene from one organism and insert it into a second organism. Cloning an organism means to create a new organism with the same genetic information as an existing one. This is therapeutic.

Since 1885, there have been a number of researchers, scientists, geneticists, reproductive technologists and embryologists, such as August Weismann, Hans Spemann, Walter Sutton, Paul Berg, Steen Willadsen, et al., who have contributed much to the research and development of our current concepts of cloning. Particularly two of the more recent renowned contributors to cloning research and experimentation are Ian Wilmut, a Ph. D. in animal genetic engineering, and Richard Seed, who founded Fertility and Genetics in the 1980s.

In 1973, for his thesis at Darwin College, Ian Wilmut created the first calf ever produced from a frozen embryo. In 1974, Ian Wilmut joined a research institute known as the Roslin Institute of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Today, he is currently joint head of the Department of Gene Expression and Development, with research interests in early mammalian development, embryo manipulation, nuclear transfer and gene targeting in mice, cattle, sheep and pigs.

The Roslin Institute, is known for being one of the world's primary research centers on farm and other animals. In 1996, Professor Wilmut, along with his assistant, Keith Campbell, made history by creating the first organism to be duplicated (cloned) from adult cells. Their creation infamously became known as Dolly, the first cloned adult sheep. Wilmut and Campbell created Dolly using a technique similar to the one that they used in producing the first sheep from differentiated embryo cells in 1995. A cell was taken from the mammary tissue of a mature 6 year old sheep while its DNA was in a dormant state. It was fused with a sheep ovum which had had its nucleus removed. The "fertilized" cell was then stimulated with an electric pulse. Out of 277 attempts at cell fusion, only 29 began to divide. These were all implanted in ewes. Thirteen became pregnant but only one lamb, Dolly, was born.

During a February, 1997 New York Times interview, Ian Wilmut says, "the primary purpose of the cloning is to advance the development of drug therapies to combat certain life-threatening human diseases." Wilmut also states, "Our technology permits a change of the organs in animals, so they are less threatening for the human immunology."

As a result of this successful experiment of Dr. Ian Wilmut, the prospect of human cloning becomes more likely; however, human cloning inevitably raises moral and ethical issues. Are we attempting to play God?

Dr. Lee Silver, a biologist at Princeton University, told the New York Times, in referring to the success of Wilmut's 1996 cloning experiment said, "basically, there are no limits." "It means all of science fiction is true." Dr. Ronald Munson, a medical ethicist at the University of Missouri, said, "This technology is not, in principle, policeable."

Worried that his research may be misused in the future, Dr. Ian Wilmut tells New York Times, "We can't see a clinical reason to copy a human being," "In this country it is illegal already. Furthermore, we are briefing authorities to make sure this technique is not misused."

On February 24, 1997, President Clinton had requested that (NBAC) National Bioethics Advisory Commission thoroughly review the legal and ethical issues associated with the use of cloning technology and report back within 90 days with recommendations.

Additionally, on March 4, 1997, President Clinton issued a memorandum entitled "Prohibition on Federal Funding for Cloning of Human Beings". In the memorandum, he mentioned his assignment to NBAC -- noting that cloning technology offers the potential for "enormous scientific breakthroughs that could offer benefits in such areas as medicine and agriculture" while raising "profound ethical issues, particularly with respect to its possible use to clone humans."

Furthermore, Clinton banned federal spending on human cloning. He also urged a halt in private research until the ethical impact is better understood. Others were afraid that a permanent ban could thwart vital research on how genes are turned on and off inside human cells, a key factor in finding a cure for cancer or some birth defects or unlock the secrets to diseases.

NBAC proposed that legislation to ban human cloning would be unconstitutional -- it would violate a right to procreate. Professor George Annas, of the Boston University School of Public Health, suggested that "cloning is replication, not reproduction, Annas argued that there is a constitutional right to reproduce, but it does not necessarily follow that there is a right to replicate. Professor Annas indicated that "human reproduction or replication is not like reproducing farm animals or even pets. It is his belief that "there are not any good reasons to clone humans." George Annas says that cloning a human "would be like moral terrorism. Clinton and NBAC view that humans are different from animals, and therefore, human cloning should be avoided, however, cloning animals would be permissible and acceptable.

Clinton, noted the difference cloning could make in agriculture, medical treatments or "helping to unlock the greatest secrets of the genetic code." But he did not want scientific progress to move so fast that new developments are not handled

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