Imagine being able to cure diseases such as Parkinson’s or diabetes. Today, more than one million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease (Statistics on Parkinson’s) and over twenty-five million have been diagnosed with diabetes (Statistics about Diabetes). Cloning could offer a cure to these diseases and more. A clone is defined as an identical copy of an organism or cell, produced from the genetic material of a single organism (Cloning). Although the process of cloning is still developing, it is quickly becoming a reality.
There are two distinct types of cloning: reproductive and therapeutic. Both processes can be achieved using the same technology called nuclear transfer. Nuclear transfer is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “the introduction of the nucleus from a cell into an enucleated egg cell (an egg cell that has had its own nucleus removed).” This process can be accomplished through the direct removal of the nucleus from the cell or through fusion of the cell to the egg. The transferred cell then begins to divide and develop into an embryo. Therapeutic cloning involves creating an embryo from a somatic cell, such as a skin cell, and then using the cells from the embryo to develop cells and tissues of various types, such as neural or blood cells, which can be used to repair the body. In reproductive cloning the goal is to create an embryo that could be implanted into a surrogate female and allowed to develop to term rather than being harvested for its cells. Although both processes can be referred to by the term cloning, they produce two distinct results.
Cloning, in some form, has existed for millennia. People have been cloning plants for thousands of years by cutting pieces of the roots, stems, or leaves and then planting the cuttings. Because some plants produce offspring asexually, without any genetic material from another organism, cloning is a possibility. In these cases, the cuttings will develop into identical copies of the parent plants. Many common vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants are produced in this way in order to maintain desirable characteristics. However, creating a genetically identical copy of a sexually reproducing organism is much more difficult and complex.
The first successful cloning of an animal occurred in the 1950s when scientists successfully cloned frogs. The cloning was achieved by obtaining a cell from a tadpole, extracting its genetic material, and inserting that genetic material into a frog egg that had been stripped of its nucleus. The egg developed into an adult frog with identical genetics to the tadpole that had provided the nucleus.
With the success in frogs, a simpler organism, scientists then began experimenting with the cloning of mammals. Clones of mammals were first produced by taking nuclei from the cells of sheep, cattle, and mice embryos and inserting the nuclei into egg cells. The resulting eggs were implanted in surrogate mother animals which gave birth to offspring that...