Cloning, the scientific process of combining the DNA of one organism with the egg of another, creating a perfect genetically matched lifeform. Sound like an episode off the old sci-fi show “V”? Its not. Cloning is real. To this date scientists have cloned tadpoles, mice, cows and sheep. One sheep in particular, Dolly, a Scottish “born” animal created by Dr. Ian Wilmut, was the first mammal to be successfully cloned, bringing cloning technology into the spotlight. Dolly brought with her many new conceivable advancements in the area of health and medicine. The scientists involved in the development of cloning technology are very optimistic about its many possible new uses. The ability to wipe out disease and make the food we eat better for us are a couple of the practical uses presented. Also, helping presently untreatable infertility by cloning an individual and impregnating them with a cloned embryo, or cloning the organ of an individual in need of a transplant averting the possibility of tissue rejection would all be great assets to medical technology. The geneticists researching cloning are eager to move further ahead and clone a human being, but have run into one of the many barriers to cross. President Clinton, after receiving news of Dolly, has imposed a ban on any attempts to clone a human as well as preventing federal funding related to cloning research (Shapiro 196). This ban is misguided and ill timed at best. The clone happy geneticists will most likely have very little trouble finding appropriate funding to perform their experiments. If the government would get more involved, cloning could be regulated as to make sure that it was not being used for malicious purposes. The cloning ban imposed by Clinton should be lifted and more of the right attention should be given to cloning so that the human race may benefit from it.
Not more than a year ago the idea of cloning seemed less like science and more like science fiction. But within recent months scientists are turning science fiction into a reality. It began with Dr. Ian Wilmut, an embryologist from Scotland. As a boy Dr. Wilmut wanted to be a farmer. But after working in a laboratory during his summers he became enchanted by the progression of embryos and their complexity. Later he began experimenting at Scotland’s Roslin Institute. There his vision to create genetically engineered farm animals that would manufacture therapeutic proteins in their milk, brought about Dolly. (Nash 99). Dolly was an accident; the “offspring” of one of Wilmut’s experiments. In the words of Dr. Wilmut “’Dolly was a bonus,” he says, adding, “sometimes when scientists work hard, they also get lucky”’ (Nash 99). Dolly will never know just how much she actually means to mankind and its future. Dr. Wilmut may never live long enough to see how his discovery will change human existence. But the possibility that cloning technology could bring enormous rewards can not be ignored. Dolly may have been an accident, but she was definitely not a mistake. The same procedure used to clone Dolly is being considered for humans (Nash 99). The importance of Dolly’s existence is unmistakable.
The procedure done by Dr. Wilmut to create Dolly was different from that of scientists in the past who had worked with genetic engineering. Wilmut’s cells, which were taken from Scottish Black sheep, had not yet begun to translate their DNA into a form that creates the animal. Wilmut’s team simply removed the cell’s nuclei and placed them next to a white sheep udder cell. After applying electricity, the cells fused together. The fused egg was then implanted in a blackface ewe using artificial fertilization. When the white Dolly emerged from her black mother four months later the scientists new she was not the same breed as the one from which she had come. Later biological tests would show that Dolly was indeed a clone (Uehling 75). While Wilmut is proud of his achievement he feels there is no reason to clone human beings. Although he says, “There is no reason in principle why you couldn’t do it.” (Uehling 75).
Not all embryologists have the same views about cloning humans as Wilmut. One scientist in particular, Dr. Richard Seed, a Chicago based embryologist announced that he would open a clinic to clone anyone who had enough money to afford the procedure (Josefson 167). Dr. Seed plans to clone humans in the same fashion as Dolly. While many scientists believe Dr. Seed has eccentric views, few doubt he has the ability to carry out his plans (Josefson 167). Yury Verlinsky, the director of reproductive genetics at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, said, “Practically anyone able to do intracytoplasmic sperm injection is able to do cloning. Any good biological lab that can do preimplantation genetic analysis and manipulation of cells can do cloning.” (Josefson 167). While President Clinton’s ban prevents anyone from creating human clones, it is not effective in other countries. Dr. Seed has four infertile couples wishing to be cloned. He says that if the law prevents him from opening a cloning clinic in the U.S., he will simply open one in Mexico. Dr. Seed feels that people fear cloning because it is such a new technology. He says, “Gradually, the ethical positions will change, and they will change when there are a half a dozen bouncing baby clones.” (Josefson 167). If the proper approach where taken towards cloning, individuals like Seed would not feel pressured to follow through with there experiments elsewhere. Many other countries do not have restrictions on cloning or cloning research. It would be very simple for someone to open a clinic outside the U.S. where they would be safe to perform any type of experimentation they desire. Allowing activities like that to occur would be much more detrimental to the human race than safe, researched and restricted cloning would. The best policy would be to put cloning research and experimentation under strict governmental supervision, rather than stopping it dead in its tracks and wait for someone to slip through the cracks and clone illegally or in another country.
Unfortunately the position adopted by the commission responsible for advising the president to ban cloning, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), is to prevent anyone from cloning and to halt federal funding. Susan Wolf, author of “Ban Cloning? Why the NBAC is wrong” says, “[the] NBAC was wrong to urge a ban. Cloning undoubtedly warrants regulation. But the ban proposed will not yield the sort of regulation required. Instead, it will reduce cloning to a political football in Congress, raise serious constitutional problems, and chill important research”, adding, “[the] NBAC erred by taking cloning out of context. Like any technology, cloning needs to be safe before used.” Wolf believes a better approach would be to “extend human subjects protection into the private sphere and regulate reproductive technologies affectively”. Cloning to this date is just one of many possible reproductive technologies; other types are used every day. Whether it be intracytoplasmic sperm injection or cytoplasm transfer, all procedures were researched, tested and experimented (Wolf 14). And because of that, they are safe and legal. Cloning deserves the same type of attention.
If the ban imposed by President Clinton were to be redone as to allow cloning research to continue, many possible good uses could come from it. Shortly after cloning Dolly, the same researchers cloned two more sheep genetically altered to produce therapeutic proteins in their milk. Later in Wisconsin two Holstein calves, named Charlie and George, were cloned. Having been genetically altered, the calves are the first of a breed to be more disease-resistant by secreting pharmaceuticals in their milk, a method nicknamed “pharming”. At the University of Wisconsin, scientists have genetically merged the DNA of pigs, rats and monkeys with cow eggs. Such a procedure may some day be used to save endangered species like the bald eagle or rhinos (Schrof 36). Cloning technology is also being considered for organ replacement. If allowed and perfected, the cloning of human organs for replacement would dramatically reduce the risk of tissue rejection that is so common in transplants. The cloned organ would be a perfect genetic match because the tissue and DNA would be taken directly from the individual in need. Jonathan Slack, an embryologist at Bath University in England, has proposed a way to clone organs from a single cell. Dr. Lee Silver, a Princeton biologist, has also come forth with the idea of cloning entire human bodies, with the exception of the head, as a way to replace organs whenever needed. To many this may seem a little eccentric, but if accepted by the general population, cloned headless bodies would dramatically increase the human lifespan. The notion of cloning may seem to some like a scary “Brave New World” type of technology. Those feelings are not uncommon with such drastic technological advancements. The general population is not prepared to deal with such a change of the “norm”. So they simply label it as bad and move one, or put it on the “backburner” as Clinton has done. The ban on cloning is in serious need of reorganization. The NBAC needs to reconsider the positive impact that cloning could bring to human race. Although cloning is a new technology, there is no evidence that it is dangerous. The advice given to Clinton concerning the ban stood merely on assumptions. It is one of the jobs of the federal government to protect the people. Banning cloning and cloning research does just the opposite. We should not close any doors that may lead to significant advances in our well-being; to do so would be truly inhumane. If adopted as a common practice in science, cloning will be one more step of many in human evolution. It will be the ultimate trophy to mans existence; a glorious hood ornament on the Ferrari of mankind’s ego.