Genetic Engineering’s Greatest Feat: Cloning
Cloning is a process that replicates a living being by artificially reproducing its DNA. Recently, Chinese scientists at the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai successfully cloned the first ever pair of primates.
Dolly the Sheep
July 5, 1996 marked an important day in the history of cloning animals. It was the day that the first cloned mammal, Dolly the Sheep, was born. She only lived to be 7 years old, which is relatively young for a sheep; however, she marked an incredible breakthrough in the field of genetic engineering.
THE MACAQUE MONKEYS
21 years later, scientists at the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai announced that they had successfully cloned two macaque monkeys, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua. These primates were the first to be born from 127 eggs, which shows how rare the effects of cloning are. In addition to its scarcity of reproduction success, the practice of cloning is extremely difficult. It requires scientists to use a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer, in which they extract DNA from genetically modified animal cells and inject that substance into a mother’s eggs. This was the same method by which Dolly the Sheep was created.
IS CLONING ETHICAL?
The practice of cloning brings up an important ethical question, “Should this be applied to humans?” The popular viewpoint among a majority of scientists is to go against it, as it is very ineffective and can lead to many disastrous consequences, such as chronic diseases. Although human cloning could bring happiness to mothers suffering through miscarriages, it could also bring great deals of pain and suffering for both the child and his/her loved ones. Additionally, cloning humans would require much more effort physically and financially, leading to a greater risk. For humans, it is estimated to cost around $2 million. Furthermore, the egg donors would be required to take drugs that stop the production of eggs, and suddenly force the body to overproduce. In the end, this would also leave the donor with a scar, a physical pain that will last with them for the rest of their lives.
Fortunately, these two macaque monkeys will be able to aid the scientific research community in resolving childhood diseases in young monkeys. The research team at the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai, with the help of these cloned monkeys, hopes to be able to study age-related diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
For more information about this topic, check out the following links: