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Cloning revival brings back old questions

by Nicholas Mazur - Campus Talk Editor
Tue, Feb 27th 2018 08:10 pm

Science is something that isn’t afraid to push into new boundaries, and sometimes, that can lead to some questionable things. Certainly, building nuclear devices that can obliterate whole cities and make them uninhabitable for 10,000 years has serious moral implications. However, biological boundaries can also provide deadly games of thin moral lines.

Cloning, in this instance, can be something very dangerous if not handled with careful consideration. I mean, we all love to watch “Jurassic Park,” but genetic manipulation is no blockbuster thinkpiece, it’s a real issue that only grows more prevalent every day. If we’re not careful about the very strands of code that keep us together, they could unravel.

The specific event that precipitated the above lament on the dangers of science was the cloning of a monkey. According to sciencemag.org, scientists in China have successfully used the same method that was once used to clone the famed sheep, Dolly, to clone a pair of monkeys in Shanghai. 

While we’re on the subject, lets first discuss what cloning exactl is. First off, there is more than one type of cloning. Scientists often clone specific genes in a lab that they wish to study further. Though this is cloning, it is far from the more sensational kind of cloning we tend to think of. That type of cloning is called “reproductive cloning,” and is much more difficult for scientists to achieve. 

Reproductive cloning has a much more involved process, in which cells from the “original” organism are taken. In the case of the sheep Dolly, it was cells from an utter. The DNA from this non reproductive cell, or somatic cell, is added to an egg cell. The DNA from this egg cell is removed for the somatic cell DNA. They can also use electrical current to fuse the somatic egg with its DNA together with the empty egg cell. With this process, scientists have been able to clone several types of mammals, including mice, cows, dogs and cats. However, the process is risky and can often result in the death of the clones.

Interestingly, there are a few myths that circulate about clones. The first is that we’ve cloned humans before. Despite what people say and rumors that spread, there is no evidence that humans have ever been successfully cloned. The second, and the one that is much more interesting to me, is that clones do not always look exactly alike. Although they have the same genes to choose from as one another, nature can still greatly affect which genes are going to be chosen in the end for each organism, and thus the process can result in different appearances.

As for the monkeys that were recently cloned in China, this successful cloning has many more implications than the famed sheep. Dolly is certainly a milestone we recognize, but cloning a primate, specifically Macaca fascicularis, brings us closer to being able to clone human beings. 

Of course the implications are wide for what we could do with cloned humans. The sci-fi dark avenue would of course be slave labor, but that seems a bit melodramatic, especially at this point. Some have also suggested that we could use it to clone identical organs for people who need organ replacements for various reasons. Though that avenue intrigues me greatly, researchers are still strongly urging caution moving forward on cloning. It’s good to know that scientists can recognize the boundaries of their work, where the urge for answers turns into a reckless desire to prove we can do something.

I said all of this at the beginning of the article, but it’s a good note to leave on: science is dangerous. We have so many ways to kill off the human race and just about all life on earth. Not just one way, but many. With that kind of power and the track history we have as a species, we can never be too cautious. Cloning may seem harmless, but a clump of atoms shoved into a metal cage seems pretty harmless until you smash an neutron into some of those atom nuclei. Science operates daily on the principle that just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

The same goes for danger: just because you can’t see the danger of cloning, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. 

Caution on the part of science seems like the right course. As many benefits and accomplishments as there might be to cloning, there could be just as many mistakes and pitfalls waiting below the surface. Science is an obsession with fact and discovery, but it is also a responsibility of knowledge and proper use of it.



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