e EssaysThe Cloning DebateThe first attempt in cloning was conducted in 1952 on a group of frogs.The experiment was a partial success. The frog cells were cloned into otherliving frogs however, only one in every thousand developed normally , all ofwhich were sterile. The rest of the frogs that survived grew to abnormally largesizes.
In 1993, scientist and director of the in vitro lab at GeorgeWashington University, Jerry Hall and associate Robert Stillman, reported thefirst ever successful cloning of human embryos. It was the discovery of in-vitro fertilization in the 1940s that began the pursuit to ease the sufferingof infertile couples. After years of research, scientists learned that “in atypical in-vitro procedure, doctors will insert three to five embryos in hopesthat, at most, one or two will implant” (Elmer-Dewitt 38).
And that “a womanwith only one embryo has about a 10% to 20% chance of getting pregnant throughin-vitro fertilization. If that embryo could be cloned and turned into three orfour, thechances of a successful pregnancy would increase significantly”(Elmer-Dewitt 38).The experiment the scientists performed is the equivalent of a motherproducing twins. The process has been practiced and almost perfected inlivestock for the past ten years, and some scientists believe that it seems onlylogical that it would be the next step in in-vitro fertilization. The procedurewas remarkably simple. Hall and Stillman “selected embryos that were abnormalbecause they came from eggs that had been fertilized by more than one sperm”(Elmer-Dewitt 38), because the embryos were defective, it would have beenimpossible for the scientist to actually clone another person. They did however,split the embryos into separate cells, as a result creating separate andidentical clones.
They began experimenting on seventeen of the defectiveembryos and “when one of those single-celled embryos divided into two cellthescientists quickly separated the cells, creating two different embryos with thesame genetic information” (Elmer-Dewitt 38). The cells are coated with aprotective covering “called a zona pellucida, that is essential to development”(Elmer-Dewitt 38), which was stripped away and replaced with a gel-likesubstance made from seaweed that Hall had been experimenting with. Thescientists were able to produce forty-eight clones, all of which died within sixdays. Other scientist have been quoted saying that although the experiment isfairly uncomplicated, it had not been tested before because of the moral andethical issues surrounding an experiment such as this one. Some people believethat aiding infertile couples is the only true benefit to cloning human embryos,and fear that if the research is continued it could get out of hand.
Otheradvantages that have been suggested include freezing human embryos for later use,in the event that a child should get sick or die. If a parent has had theirchilds embryos cloned and frozen and their child dies at an early age of cribdeath, the parents could have one of the frozen embryos de-thawed and implantedinto the womb. Nine months later, the mother would give birth to a child thatwas identical to the one they had lost. Or if a four year old child developsleukemia and requires a bone marrow transplant.
A couple could implant a pre-frozen embryos clone of their first child and produce an identical twin as aguarantee for a perfect match. The parents would therefore have identical twinsthat were four years apart. The disadvantages are endless. If this type oftechnique were exploited and used in vain, we could be heading down “a tunnel ofmadness”(Elmer-Dewitt 37).
“Researchers have developed DNA- analysis techniquesto screen embryos fordisorders, but the procedures require snipping cells offembryos, a process that sometimes kills them”( Elmer-Dewitt 39). It is expectedthat the idea of throwing away an embryos because it is disease ridden willthrow pro-life activists into a frenzy (Elmer-Dewitt 39). It is one thing toexercise the freedom of chose to abort an unwanted child for whatever reason,but to throw one a way due to a pre-understanding that it carries a disease, inmy opinion, is unethical. These types of possibilities are producing moral andethical debates among ethicists the world over.
Most countries have setregulations concerning cloning human embryos and in some countries it is anoffense punishable by law and requires incarceration . Between the medicalcontributions and the ethical questions surrounding cloning human embryos, it isunlikely that we will have the opportunity to discover if further research toHall and Stillmans experiment could actually produce human beings.ReferencesElmer-Dewitt, Philip. “Cloning: Where Do We Draw the Line?” Time Magazine. November 8th, 1993: 37-42.