Many remember Dolly the sheep which was a product of cloning engineered under guidance of Scottish scientists in 1997. Since then, hot emotional discussions for and against the extension of cloning concepts to include human beings have gained momentum. This article will define the concept of cloning and thereafter highlight some bio-socio-ethical issues that are raised by the society on the subject.
Cloning in the scientific world is a general word used to mean processes of reproducing or duplicating a living organism. It can be done at a DNA level, at single cell level or at whole organism level.
This includes Recombinant DNA technology (DNA cloning, Gene cloning or Molecular cloning) in this technology a DNA fragment of interest is transferred from an organism to a self duplicating genetic element like the bacterial plasmid. After the replication it is then transferred to a different suitable host cell that will reproduce it as cell division occurs.
Second is reproductive cloning in which an organism with the same nuclear DNA as the existing donor organism is produced. In this technology, genetic materials are transferred from the nucleus of body cell of a donor to the sex cell whose nucleus has been removed resulting in the sex cell having genetic material from the donor. At suitable stage the embryo is implanted in the uterus of a female host where it develops until birth occurs. The resultant offspring has nuclear DNA of the donor but is not entirely similar to the clone of the donor animal. It is also termed as human cloning and occurs at the level of the whole organism. Its intentions are to make copies of humans to people who are not able to or are unwilling to have offspring naturally.
Thirdly, the Therapeutic cloning or Embryo cloning; thisis the production of human embryos to be used in research. The human embryos after 5 days are destroyed to remove stem cells which scientist can use to generate any type of specialized cell like the liver cells or heart cells.
Whereas there are known advantages of cloning like in genetic engineering of organism to increase nutritional value or productivity and in medical uses, many bio-ethical and socio-ethical issues arise. Many countries including Italy, Costa Rica banned both therapeutic and reproductive cloning since both are categories of human cloning. Issues of whether scientists will be playing God are raising hot debates in all countries in the world. The possibility of using human clones in military spheres, as a replacement of your dead loved one raises concerns on the place of a natural human in the world in the future. Indications of clones being used to grow organs for there rich natural owners is raising concerns on how the sanctity of human life will be preserved. In addition, the place of marriage in the society will be questioned as human clones will only have genes from the donor. There are also indications that the human clones may be used in unethical or immoral actions as there will be no fear of the divine powers. These ethical issues should be considered before appropriate decisions on human cloning are taken.