The question to clone or not to clone is currently center stage of scientific debate. Since the birth of Dolly, the sheep, in 1997 the controversial question of cloning has been paramount throughout the entire globe. The question is no longer whether it can be done, but whether is should be done and to what extent. We have already cloned goats, mice, monkeys, cattle, and pigs (Cloning fact sheet). Scientists are now trying to get approval to clone humans or at least parts of them (Eccleston, CNN). All of these clonings have led to much criticism and controversy, but the latest attempt at cloning is that of endangered and possibly already extinct species in hopes of preserving them. This short paper will give a brief description of cloning and the pros and cons of preserving endangered and extinct species via means of cloning.
There are different types of cloning. One type led by researchers at the Human Genome Project entails the copying of genes and parts of chromosomes in order to get enough identical genetic material to do further research, which they believe could help prevent human diseases in the future (Cloning fact sheet). Another type of cloning is called Blastomere separation, also known as twinning. In this case they split an egg (embryo), soon after it has been fertilized which results in two or more embryos, twins, containing the same exact DNA from both parents (Cloning fact sheet). However, Dolly, was cloned from only one parent. To do this, scientists must take an egg, empty out its genetic material, and replace it with genetic material from another animal by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer (Cloning fact sheet). This means that only one animal’s (or parent’s) DNA is now in that egg. The procedure itself is fairly straightforward but the number of actual live births attained from this procedure is very low. In the case of this next example, 692 embryos were cloned, of those only 81 grew sufficiently to implant, of those 42 were implanted into 32 cows, but only eight cows actually became pregnant (Lanza, R., Dresser, B., Damiani, P. 2000). Most of the cows had spontaneous abortions and one had a very late-term abortion. These low statistics led to only one cow making it to full term so far (Lanza, R., Dresser, B., Damiani, P. 2000).
What does this have to do with endangered species?
Next month, November 2000, the first cloned, endangered species is scheduled to be born. Noah, as he has already been named, is a gaur: a large ox-like animal from India with a current population of only about 36,000 left in the wild (Lanza, R., Dresser, B., Damiani, P. 2000). The reasoning behind cloning endangered species according to scientists at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), is ultimately the preservation of their gene pool and propagation of these animals until their natural habitats can be restored, at which point they could be...