[Editors Note – I’ve had to abandon the usual format this month because I just couldn’t bring myself to type ‘What We Want: Human Clones!’ Because that wouldn’t technically be true...]
Cloning, like any good Science-Fiction staple, is grounded in real world biology and technology. If anything, it’s far more prevalent than you’d expect.
Chances are, when cloning pops up in conversation, images of multiple Michael Keatons
are conjured forth. But the process isn’t always so outlandish...ly entertaining!
Cloning is actually a common, naturally occurring phenomenon by the name of Parthenogenesis
. It refers to the asexual reproduction of bacteria, plants and certain insects.
Horticulturalists have technically been cloning for centuries, exploiting this process to bolster and improve crops. For example, certain European grape cultivars represent clones which have undergone propagation for more than two thousand years.
This lone fact may lack the razzle-dazzle of legions of Temuera Morrisons marching into the hanger bay of a parked Star Destroyer.
But it’s certainly more interesting than the entirety of Attack of the Clones!
It’s hard to go a hundred words on cloning without mentioning a certain wee sheepy by the name of Dolly (yet somehow I managed it!)
Dolly was cloned by extracting a cell from her biological mother’s udder and inserting it into a sheep ovum to create an embryo. Afterward, it was implanted it in a healthy sheep for a normal pregnancy, brewed for a while and long story short – the first cloned mammal from an adult cell!
Dolly retains her significance as she demonstrated that genetic material from specific adult cells (programmed to express a distinct genetic subset) CAN
be reprogrammed to form entirely new organisms.
Echoed in broader Science Fiction, cloning is often a dark, murky process. The ‘Dolly’ project suffered low success rates per fertilized egg. Dolly herself was born after 277 eggs created 29 embryos, which in turn produced a trio of lambs at birth.
It’s worth remembering Dolly is by no means the only, nor first, animal to undergo cloning...
1963 – Chinese embryologist Tong Dizhou creates the world's first cloned fish by inserting a male carp cell into a female egg
2005 – A male Afghan hound by the name of Snuppy becomes the first cloned dog
2007 - The Philippines revealed the development of the first cloned Water Buffalo
2012 – Noori becomes the first cloned Pashmina Goat via advanced reproductive techniques
Right, animals are cute and fluffy and good for hilarious names like Snuppy. But I know why you’re all REALLY
Though at some stage in their lives, certain siblings probably want to go at it like Hideo Kojima’s Solid and Liquid Snake,
the fact is identical twins are a relatively common occurrence in the natural world.
In terms of ARTIFICIAL human cloning however there are two distinct areas:
Therapeutic cloning- Medicines and assorted means of gene therapy (discussed in this previous entry
Reproductive Cloning – Anticlimactically, this isn’t really being researched. If anything, most western nations have legislation banning human cloning.
I'd be tempted never to let the one in the centre go, alright.... Enlarge
While, Kazuo Ishiguro’s
2005 novel (and subsequent film - read the Review
) Never Let Me Go
addresses the ethics of clones being raised as living organ donors, the reality isn’t quite as sinister.
At least not yet anyway. But research has been undertaken into xenotransplantation, the cloning and transplant of genetically altered, viable organs inside animals and livestock.
Perhaps it’s only a matter of time...
Back in November 1998, Advanced Cell Technologies
engineered the first hybrid human clone. Crafted from a man's leg cell and a cow's egg (minus the DNA), the clone was destroyed after 12 days.
ACT have insisted their aim was 'therapeutic cloning' not 'reproductive cloning' though by their admission, the clone could have resulted in a complete human had it come to term. Since a normal embryo implants at 14 days, director of tissue engineering at ACT, Dr Robert Lanza
told the Daily Mail
that the embryo could not be seen as a person before 14 days.
And would you look at that, we’ve stumbled into an ethical minefield!
Lanza’s Does this look like a man who stays awake at night, worrying about his origins??? Enlarge
comments are unlikely to offend infamous 2000AD
clone Judge Joseph Dredd
, who already takes a relatively hard-line stance when it comes to ethical practice
. However those interested in a more measured, analytical approach to the implications (Social, Religious, Political, Aristotelian) of widespread artificial human production would do well to read Aldous Huxley
’s seminal novel, Brave New World.
Lastly, what do YOU think folks?
The genesis of the soul.
Are these the issues you’d like tackled here at Click
or has everything gone a little heavy all of a sudden?