Should We Allow Human Cloning?

The news of the successful cloning of an adult sheep, Dolly, launched a seemingly never ending debate as over human cloning. If you set aside the ethical and religious or moral debates on the subject there are a few key biological points to be considered. 

Biological Background

What is Cloning?

Reproductive cloning is the exact reproduction of another person’s DNA or genetic makeup. While it would be made as an exact replica of another person’s gene that does not mean it will be the same exact person. Personalities and what makes us unique will still differ by means of development in its own unique environment.

  1. First you start with two cells. One cell is a body cell from the person you are going to clone. This cell contains the DNA that will make the clone. It is a somatic cell, which is a cell from an organ or tissue. The second cell is an unfertilized egg which has it’s nucleus removed so that it no longer contains any genetic material or DNA.
  2. The somatic cell which has the genetic code (from the person you’re cloning) is starved of nutrients causing it to enter a suspended state. In this state the egg has no nucleus just like the enucleated egg cell.
  3. Next, the two cells are than fused together by an electric current that stimulates the development of the egg.
  4. The egg is placed in an oviduct, which acts as an insulator, where it begins divide. At this stage in the development, it is no longer an egg but an embryo.
  5. The last step in somatic nuclear replacement is to implant the growing embryo into the uterus of a surrogate mother where it will continue to develop until it is born.
Stem Cells and the Future of Regenerative Medicine
Adult and Fetal Stem Cells Embryonic Stem Cells Embryonic Stem Cells Produced with the SCNT Technique Reproductive Cloning: Embryos produced with SCNT Technique
Purpose of use To obtain undifferentiated stem cells for research and therapy To obtain undifferentiated stem cells for research and therapy To obtain undifferentiated stem cells that are genetically matched to recipient for research & therapy To produce embryo for implantation, leading to birth of a child
Starting material Isolated stem cells from adult or fetal tissue Cells from an embryo at blastocyst stage produced by fertilization Cells from a blastocyst produced by development of an enucleated egg supplied from somatic cell Enucleated egg supplied with nucleus from donor’s somatic cell
End Product Cells produced in culture to replenish diseased or injured tissue Cells produced in culture to replenish diseased or injured tissue Cells produced in culture to replenish diseased or injured tissue Embryo derived from development of egg
Source: Stem Cells and the Future of Regenerative Medicine, Committee on the Biological and Biomedical Applications of Stem Cell Research, Board on Life Sciences National Research Council Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001

The Argument: Pros

The best way to understand the human genome.

The Human Genome project is a multi-disciplinary effort that uses cloning during the mapping process to understand the basis of human heredity. “Sequencing the entire human genome (and that of several model organisms) will enable us to identify all human genes, investigate how the control of gene expression contributes to the development of humans and other organisms…”

Ability to produce super humans.

Cloning could allow the ability to produce “Super Humans” – A sort of Hercules breed a super race or class of people who are genetically engineered for brains, brawn and resistance to disease.

Refine medicinal methods.

Through a better understanding of cell differentiation a cure for cancer could be developed. The cause for heart attacks could also be studied, and theories could lead to improved treatment and prevention.

Organ transplant waiting lists obsolete.

One of the most compelling arguments for human cloning is the ability to make the waiting lists obsolete. While the success rate for the cloning of an entire being is fairly low, cloning just organs has a much higher success rate. Cloning of organs would allow for much needed kidneys, hearts and other vital organs.

Is your liver failing? Why wait until it goes out… just order up a cloned one to replace it.

The Argument: Cons

Low success rate for embryos.

The cloning technique that was used to create Dolly the Sheep was only successful 1 in 277 times. Cloning in animals has shown that there are much higher chances for severe developmental abnormalities to occur.

Humans aren’t meant to be specimens. They are sentient beings of free will.

With the advent of human cloning it is possible that clones would begin to be viewed as specimens for the pleasure or purpose of the clone-r. They could be treated as a second chance being, with the clone-r acting as God, predetermining their future or destiny to fulfill their own personal wishes rather than allowing the free will of the clone itself.

There are plenty of movies about wishing you could go back and have a second chance. What if you would have stuck with playing baseball when you were just in the little league… people said you could have been famous. Why not clone yourself and require that little one to stick with it this time? Or what about if only you had applied yourself more academically? The poor child that you would enslave to the books to fulfill your fantasy of “what could have been”.

No one should be subjected to the demands or wishes of another without free will, even if that person is a clone.

Countries could clone armies.

So what if we have super humans that are cloned… of course the next logical thought is to mass produce these super humans for, what else, a super human army. Human cloning in the hands of terrorist countries could be our biggest national threat yet. Living in a country with national ethics above stooping to the level of depravity that cloned armies would be could leave us nearly indefensible.

Human clones become a commodity. Inhumane.

“All I need is 4 more hours every day…!”
“What I wouldn’t give for another hand around the house!”

Scary isn’t it… You could gain those few more hours, or the helping hand around the house with your own truly personal assistant. Fantastic, right? Well we can’t forget that these clones are human. Some countries already have inhumane treatment of children in sweatshops. Imagine what they would do if humans could be readily cloned as the next wave in the workforce.

Lack of genetic diversity would lead to genetic inbreeding.

If human cloning could lead to the removal of genetic mutations and create super humans, then why wouldn’t everyone want one? When you crave a child of your very own, why not order up a perfect one? Well if everyone came from the same genetic makeup what about reproduction when the clones all grow up? Eventually there will be such a high risk of genetic inbreeding between clones.
Natural selection could wipe out entire population if they all have the same genotype.

With genetic diversity destroyed by the replacement of natural reproduction with human cloning, it would take just one nasty little virus to wipe out an entire community or population.

Annotated Bibliography

Title: On Cloning Human Beings.
Subject(s): BIOETHICS; HUMAN cloning
Author(s): de Melo-Martín, Inmaculada
Source: Bioethics, Jun2002, Vol. 16 Issue 3, p246, 20p
Abstract: Presents the arguments for and against human cloning. Classification of arguments against human cloning; Argument on psychological harm of cloning; Advantages of human cloning in the battle against diseases.
AN: 6605068
ISSN: 0269-9702
Database: Academic Search Elite

Title: Human Genome Project Information Cloning Fact Sheet
Abstract: Introduces cloning and presents facts and information on various questions including: What is cloning? Are there different types of cloning? How can cloning technologies be used? What animals have been cloned? Can organs be cloned for use in transplants? What are the risks of cloning?

Title: Medline Plus: Cloning
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health
Abstract: Various resources that I used for researching human cloning and the issues surrounding the topic.

Title: (Sex and) Cloning
Abstract: New Scientist Expert Coverage of Sex and Cloning Fertility Cloning Stem Cells. I used this as a starting point for additional research for my paper.


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