There are different types of processes that can be used to produce genetically identical copies of a biological entity. The term cloning describes these processes. In cloning, a clone is a copied material that has the same genetic makeup as the original. Till now researchers have successfully cloned a wide variety of biological materials, like, cells, tissues, genes, and even entire organisms such as sheep. All over the world, there have been a lot of debates and discussions about cloning. One group supports it due to the advantages of cloning whereas the other group quotes the disadvantages of cloning. To understand the broader scenario of this topic, you should start by learning the purpose of cloning.
1. What is the Purpose of Cloning?
The scientific technique that is used to make the exact genetic copies of living things is called cloning. Almost everyone is aware of the meaning of this process but very few know about the purpose of cloning. So here are the prime purposes of cloning:
- Cloning to make stem cells: Throughout your life, the stem cells are responsible for building, maintaining, and repairing your body. They can be manipulated to repair diseased or damaged tissues and organs. But naturally, when stem cells are transferred from one person to another, they usually trigger an immune response. With cloning, however, these cells can be used for medical purposes. They can even grow whole organs. Researchers are trying to clone stem cells that are genetically identical to an individual. Moreover, stem cells cloned from a diseased person can help researchers understand the diseases to develop treatments.
- Cloning animal models of disease: The researchers learn about most human diseases by studying them on animal models like mice. Animal models are most of the time genetically engineered to carry disease-causing mutations in their genes. These animals are transgenic and creating them is a time-intensive process. However, with cloning, researchers can make such animal models in less time.
- To revive endangered or extinct species: The researchers have been working hard to clone species that became extinct recently. They are using the well-preserved tissues of the extinct species to extract the DNA needed for cloning. Many projects concerned with this topic are underway. Scientists are even to clone a wooly mammoth.
- To clone livestock: Many programs are underway to clone agricultural animals like pigs, cattle, etc. The idea is to clone livestock with high-quality meat or milk. This way the quality of the livestock will always remain the same. The researchers also want to use cloning to produce medicinal drugs and to clone humans and pets.
2. What are Advantages of Cloning?
Now you are very well aware of the purpose of cloning. Like any scientific place, there are certain disadvantages and advantages of cloning. Let’s see the advantages of cloning first:
- By cloning stem cells, researchers can find possible treatments for a variety of diseases.
- It can help in the preservation of endangered species and end their risk any extinction.
- It can provide organs for transplantation. These cloned organs eliminate the risks associated with the procedure of transplantation. This helps with better life expectancy.
- It provides a better understanding of genetic/hereditary diseases.
- With the help of cloning, the parents will have an opportunity to choose the characters and traits they want in their children. They will also be able to eliminate unwanted ones.
3. What is the Best Advantage of Cloning?
You have till now learned about the advantages of cloning but the best advantage of cloning should be its contribution to organ transplant. In genetic cloning, scientists take small amounts of cells from a certain organ and use them to harvest and generate new organs. These organs are entirely functional and can be of great help to the huge number of people on organ donation waiting lists. (See What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Sexual Reproduction?)
4. What are the Advantages of Cloning Animals?
The advantages of cloning animals are as follows:
- Research: By cloning animals, researchers can study the physiology of certain diseases. They can clone certain organs instead of entire organs. It can help develop human medications and drugs, such as antithrombin. Additionally, through animal cloning, scientists can culture and produces stem cells that can be used for the treatment of numerous human diseases.
- Increase livestock output: It can be used in farms to increase livestock. The world population is increasing at a very fast rate and through cloning, livestock output can be increased. In the future, it may even help to avoid an increase in the cost of meats. Moreover, by cloning the animals with desired traits there will be an increase in quality.
- Help balance ecosystems: A significant number of species are considered endangered and animal cloning can eradicate the threat of their extinction.
- Personal reasons: It can be used to clone a lost pet.
5. How does Cloning Help the Environment?
Now that you have learned the advantages of cloning animals, let’s explore how cloning helps the environment. Cloning can be a great help to the environment as it can help preserve endangered species and in the future, it may also be used to bring back extinct species. Additionally, by cloning the livestock animals, the consumers and farmers will also be benefitted. It can help the farmers by fastening the reproduction process of their most productive livestock. This will produce healthy and safe food. (See How the Cell can Read the Blueprint of its DNA?)
6. How will Cloning Help You in the Future?
Till now you have learned a lot of advantages of cloning and this should have established an understanding in mind that cloning will be very prevalent in the future. In the future, it will help researchers bring clone endangered animals, bring back extinct animals, bring back deceased pets, allow infertile couples to have kids, can cure many diseases and disorders, etc. Check out What is a Cellular Respiration Virtual Lab?
7. Who is the First Cloned Human?
In 2002, a Bahamas-based cloning company Clonaid claimed that the world’s first cloned baby was born on 26 December. Even after so many years, there is no independent scientific information to confirm this claim. The claimed cloned baby was a girl and was named Eve by the cloning team. It was said that she was born via Caesarean section.
In 1998, some South Korean scientists also claimed to have successfully cloned a human embryo. This experiment though was interrupted very early when the clone was just a group of four cells.
In 2004, a group led by Woo-Suk Hwang of Seoul National Unversity, South Korea published a paper in Journal Science claiming that they have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube. However, in 2006, Science announced that Hwang’s paper had been retracted as an independent committed and found no proof to support Woo-Suk’s claim. Time and again different people from all over the world have made claims of cloning the first human but till now no officially and scientifically verified human clone has been produced. (See Why is DNA Replication Critical to the Survival of Organisms?)
8. What is the Disadvantages of Cloning?
The disadvantages of cloning are as follows:
- The diversity of genes is lost.
- It can be unethical and cause a disparity in society.
- Human cloning may pose a possible danger of human race extinction.
- Its result on society will be unpredictable.
- The rich will get richer and the poor will disappear.
- It is unforeseeable consequences that one can’t predict. It won’t bring peace but will harm society.
9. What are the Disadvantages of Cloning Humans?
- It is against the law of nature.
- It is against religious ethics.
- Cloning is a costly process and thus it will create more classism in society.
- It may be used for destructive causes like war, crimes, and other unlawful interests.
- It can divide society as clones will not be treated as humans.