The word 'cloning' rings in frightening images of duplicate human beings created of a person. When 'Dolly the sheep' was cloned in an experiment, it was subject to a lot of public outrage. The process used here was adult DNA cloning, which is different from therapeutic cloning.
In therapeutic cloning, there is no sperm fertilization or uterus implantation involved. Thus, a new human being is not created, but rather an organ, a nerve tissue, or skin is produced.
Facts and Related Stem Cell Research
What is Therapeutic Cloning?
It is a method through which stem cells are created, but used only for repairing damaged tissues in the parent clone cell. These stem cells can be used to grow alternate varieties of organs such as heart, liver, and kidney, which can be transplanted as an exact match.
This method can create stem cells that could produce sound nerve cells for patients suffering from Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease. The person in search of healthy stem cells will have to offer a non-sperm and non-egg cell, from which the DNA would be taken out.
This DNA will contain two replicates of each human chromosome. It will then be introduced into a donor egg, which would have its DNA and nucleus already removed. This process is known as somatic cell nuclear transfer.
The newly inserted egg would now behave like it has just been fertilized, and would start to divide to form an embryo. It is from this embryo that stem cells would be taken out and refined to generate the required healthy tissue.
In case of successful embryo creation through therapeutic cloning, replacement organs can be produced and a lot of people who are suffering from this condition can be cured. Numerous lives can be saved and people can live longer as well.
Several benefits with regards to this include:
- As the organ's DNA exactly matches with the person's, the fear of rejection during the process of transplant vanishes.
- The practice of waiting for a donor to obtain the desired organ would come to a halt as the required organ can be generated at will.
- Unlike an already-used organ from a donor, the new one would be brand new and without any problems which could have come with a used organ.
- Kidney transplants will become easier as the need of a donor who would have to shorten his lifespan will erase.
- There is a possibility that the method can find cures for diseases that cannot be treated otherwise.
- Lives of patients in need of an organ donor will be saved.
Problems with Therapeutic Cloning
It is true that there are tremendous benefits of this procedure. This, however, does not in any way dilute the various hurdles the process has to face before rendering successful. As with everything in life, there are several pros and cons of cloning.
✤ Research on therapeutic cloning over years has been promising, but adult cells by nature do not have a wide scope of application. Stem cells from embryos have proven to have greater flexibility than adult cells.
✤ Through the somatic cell nuclear transfer, a new person comes into existence. When stem cells are removed from the embryo, it is killed and many people consider this as murder. Pro-life supporters are therefore in protest of therapeutic cloning.
✤ There are still a few defects in the process, as a few tests have shown people and animals to develop diseases or tumors post this process. These shortcomings need to be eliminated before approval.
✤ The major concern is, where to get eggs from? To start this process at a wide level, millions of eggs would be needed. Removing eggs from a women's body is painful for them and not practically feasible as well. Thus, efficient ways to produce stem cells need to be discovered before taking therapeutic cloning to the next level.
Therapeutic cloning is therefore highly promising, but at a nascent stage in the development process. Scientists all over the world are looking to find new secrets about the embryo, to learn how to control cells.
It has the potential to be a path-breaking invention which would revolutionize the way diseases are treated and cured, if used responsibly. Right now, people can only wait and pray for this miraculous procedure to take shape.