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Peas in a Pod: The Cloning Option

Cloning, as a form of reproduction, has been discussed by scientists since at least as far back as the 1930s and in recent years, the focus on human cloning has intensified dramatically.

There are three basic types of cloning we generally read about:
  1. Hybrid cloning:
    Mix cow plus a little human DNA to produce milk with human proteins... or mix plant with antigens to produce edible vaccines. Once you have the hybrid you want, you clone it to produce a herd of cows, garden of plants, etc.
  2. Therapeutic cloning:
    Cloning tissue which, literally, has the potential to cure all disease known to man. Stem cell research is in this category. Controversy in this area has revolved around the creation of human embryos for the sole purpose of harvesting the stem cells, after which the embryos are destroyed. In the United States, embryos remaining unused in fertility clinics are used for stem cell research.
  3. Reproductive cloning:
    This is the area of human cloning touted alternatively as a way to:
    • ’cure’ infertility
    • get back at your parents
    • be a better parent
    • make a million dollars
    • ... and more...
      Source: Human Cloning Foundation

How It Works: Three Women and a Baby

Biologist Regina Bailey writes:
Pat is to be cloned. Cells from her body are to be removed, placed in culture, and deprived of nutrients. For reasons not quite understood, the total genetic code of the cells becomes active. The nucleus of a cell is then removed. Nicole provides an egg whose nucleus has also been removed. The nucleus from Pat’s cell is then inserted into the egg cell. An electric shock provides stimulus for the egg to start dividing. Pam, the "surrogate," then carries the developing embryo. Once born, the baby would be an exact genetic duplicate of Pat.
Which begs the question... Who’s the mama?

Whether the original cell donor is male or female, we have an overabundance of parents, each with a biological/genetic connection to the cloned child, each with rights and responsibilities, and an impact on the child.

Questions galore

The many questions that will need to be addressed before cloning becomes the everyday alternative treatment for infertility that many predict, include those concerning:
  • legal issues
  • moral/ethical issues
  • scientific issues
Here are some of the main questions raised in the ongoing debate:

  1. Who is legally the mother or father of a clone? Most countries determine parentage by genetic or adoptive relationships.
  2. Does every human own his or her DNA along with the right to sell it?
  3. Should anyone be allowed to make a financial profit from the genetic material of another?
Moral/Ethical Concerns
  1. Is cloning the equivalent of ’playing God’?
  2. Does every human have the right to reproduce regardless of circumstances if the price is right?
  3. Who has the right, if any, to clone a deceased person?
  4. Do clones have souls?
Scientific/Technological Issues
  1. Veteran practitioners of mammal cloning in other species have serious concerns about the means to be used and losses that will be incurred along the way to human cloning.
  2. Spontaneously aborted clones are abnormally large.
  3. Within a few weeks of birth, half the cloned cows and sheep die due to slight and unforeseeable flaws in organs and tissues.
Whatever else, cloning will certainly bring new perspectives to what we know as open adoption!

Ready to Sign Up?

Despite the many concerns, issues, and unanswered questions, it has been reported that couples and individuals are lining up, ready to pay the quoted cost of $200,000 in order to participate in cloning, and several of the major players in the field of human cloning are moving ahead full speed.

Before taking the leap, consider these four "fundamental realities" noted by Marc Lappe, director of the Center for Ethics and Toxics:
  1. cloning will not guarantee a healthy child, much less a faithful recreation of the genetic makeup of the donor;
  2. given the present democratic institutions in our country, no one can claim they have a right to be cloned;
  3. comparable medical technology can be used to help many more people to a healthy life--without having to clone them; and
  4. we can’t get there from here without some egregious violations of our moral and ethical principles.
If you think that cloning is going to be the answer for your family, meet some of the players.

Dr. Richard Seed

In January 1998, Dr. Richard Seed of Chicago announced that he would be opening a cloning lab to aid infertile couples. Dr. Seed is a physicist, and he was involved in an embryo transfer technology that competed against IVF for market share and acceptance. In September 1998, Dr. Seed announced he would be cloning himself and his wife would carry the clone. Dr. Seed’s stated motivation in producing a clone of himself was to neutralize criticism that he was using an unproven process to take advantage of desperate families. In December 1998, Dr. Seed was talking about cloning his wife. He also announced plans to set up a cloning lab in Japan by August 1999 to produce cloned pets and rare or endangered animals.

Clonaid: The Raelians

Clonaid was founded in 1997 to clone human beings. Rael, one of the founders, is also the leader of the Raelian movement, which believes aliens genetically engineered life on Earth and that Christ was resurrected via cloning. In October 2000, Clonaid announced they were cloning a dead child for a mother and father. They claimed having 50 surrogate mothers lined up to carry the clones, and the scientific know-how. In March 2001, Rael announced that Clonaid might soon be listed on the stock market with a potential worth of $100 million. In addition, Clonaid claims a list of 1,000 potential customers ready to pay $200,000 for a clone. Clonaid offers other services such as:
  • storing genetic material for future cloning attempts
  • cloning pets and championship race horses
  • selling eggs internationally from a catalog showing photos of the donors
Dr. Severino Antinori and associates

In December 1998, Dr. Severino Antinori, who has a fertility clinic in Rome, and is an infertility researcher, announced his interest in human cloning for infertile couples. In 2001, Drs. Antinori, Panayiotis Zavos, and Avi Ben Abraham announced plans to introduce cloning by 2003 as treatment for male infertility.

A Bit of Cloning Trivia
  1. You cannot duplicate your identical self.
  2. Men can’t be cloned exactly unless they get an egg from an immediate female relative.
  3. It’s generally believed that clones would not have identical fingerprints.

Credits: Nancy S Ashe

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