What is Cloning?

What is Cloning?

Cloning is the process of replicating the genes present within a DNA molecule, in order to be able to make copies of an organism. Find out more about what is cloning and what it involves, in this write up...
When the process of cloning takes place, it involves either a plant or animal specimen, that goes through a genetically modifying process of cloning its gene structure. In this way, many replicas of the same can be made for different purposes, with the prime reason being to either save a particular breed or species from extinction, curing a disease or making more samples of the same organism with a better genetic coding, like prized plants/flowers.

Humans can be cloned, although the brain is an extremely complex structured organ to duplicate, where scientists avoid the consequences of what may happen, should experiments go wrong. We will look into how embryos are cloned, but not for the purpose of cloning humans. The infamous cloned sheep, 'Dolly', who was successfully cloned in 1997, by a group of Scottish scientists headed by Ian Wilmut, was the first animal to have been cloned successfully.

The cell from another sheep was electrically merged with a donor egg, and developed without the intercession of any sperm. Now that you partially understand cloning, we will look further into the types of cloning as well as the different kinds of cloning techniques.

Types of Cloning

There are three types of cloning methods that are contained within the genetic engineering of the cloning process. To understand the cloning better, is to first understand each technique.

Reproductive
This type of cloning uses an animal that contains the exact nuclear DNA of one that either existed before or currently exists. In the procedure called somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT, scientists are in a position to transfer from the nucleus, genetic material of the donor adult cell to the egg, where its nucleus and genetic material is then replaced. In order to aid cell division, the egg must be constantly exposed to an electric current or chemicals that will help in the process. After a considerable amount of time has lapsed, it is then transferred to a female uterus of that particular animal breed, where it will take form and develop until it is ready to be born.

Recombinant DNA Technology
Also labeled as 'molecular cloning', or 'DNA/gene cloning', this procedure refers to the transferring of a DNA fragment of the selected organism, to a self replicating gene element, like a 'bacterial plasmid' (a ring DNA portion which is separate from the chromosome structure but contains elements of being able to replicate). This is then developed in a foreign host cell.

Therapeutic
Also known as 'embryo cloning', this involves the making of human embryos, where it is not a process done to clone humans, but caters to the production of stem cells to help counter the effects of diseases. This type of cloning is done in order to deal with any one kind of specific cell in the human body, where stem cells are removed from the egg after it has developed over a period of about five days. Scientists are finding ways on how to serve these genetically modified stem cells, to aid as a replacement for those suffering from a varied number of diseases that include Alzheimer's and even cancer. Due to the process of destroying the embryo called the 'blastocyst', after the extraction of these cells, people find it an immoral way of having to destroy life midway, not to mention how it raises concerns for genetically creating one.

How Cloning is Done

Many of us wonder how this extremely complicated process is carried out, when exacting the same gene patterns as that of an existing organism. Here we will venture into just that, by looking into the cloning process of plants and animals.

Plants
People have been using non scientific ways of cloning plants for many years now. A process known as 'vegetation propagation' was practiced, where the leaf of one plant is first grown into a whole new one, meaning that by doing so, you duplicate that very organism since the genetic framework was the same as the donor plant to begin with. It was due to the presence of non specialized cells in the cut out end of that plant that propelled this procedure to work called a 'callus', where eventually successful growths included a whole new plant complete with roots, stems and of course flowering if any.

In present day techniques, a process of 'tissue culture propagation' takes place, wherein the specialized roots are broken up into root cells, where these are grown using a nutrient rich culture. These then become unspecialized calluses. Using plant hormones these calluses can then be stimulated to form new plants identical to their original parents from where the roots were taken from. People now resort to this process of duplicating plants and flowers in order to keep a stock of those that are rare in nature, or that can hold some sort of value by being modified.

Animals
A process called 'parthenogenesis' is carried out where a chemical stimulus is used to duplicate animals like fish, worms, frogs and more. In 1970, a scientist named John Gurdon, was able to clone tadpoles where he transferred the nucleus of a specialized cell from one frog, into the unfertilized egg of a second frog, where the nucleus was destroyed using ultraviolet light before being replaced by the newly transferred nucleus. This experiment didn't prove successful, but future tryouts succeeded since he proved that the process was reversible when dealing with the specialization of animal cells.

Facts on Cloning

We move on to check on some cloning facts that include the issues revolving around the risks of cloning.
  • The possibility of cloned animals having infections is extremely high.
  • Due to the fact that animal cloning isn't highly successful, scientists don't want to take a chance on human cloning techniques.
  • Cloning involves the carbon copying of genetics and the manipulation of cell structures and its development, which leads them into destroying embryos and working on experiments that lead to the death of cloned animals.
  • Due to the unknown situation of will plants be able to naturally grow, this poses as a risk for species, if plants are all genetically modified to ultimately fail at naturally taking root.
  • Scientists are not allowed to mess with the nature of things by trying to duplicate an organism, and making it a man-made creation.
  • Genetically created animals have an immune system that is weak.
  • Scientists are at a risk of cloning humans for spare body parts, and abusing that use of technology.
  • Scientists don't want to take a chance on messing with the genetic structure of humans with complications in physical, mental and emotional states.
  • Plants could have altered DNA structures after they've been cloned with a different genetic coding, that could stunt the growth of species, leading to extinction.
  • Women are at a high risk of experiencing a deformity in babies or miscarriages, after evaluating unsuccessful results from cloning animals.
To understand the whole idea of cloning, one needs to know how scientists mess with a genetic structure they have no right to alter and manipulate. With ongoing experiments that are producing yet destroying at the same time, how far are they willing to push the envelop?