Cloning 3 Essay, Research Paper
Following surprising claims this week by South Korean researchers that
they cloned an embryo from the cell of a 30-year-old woman, scientists and
ethicists said cloning of humans, while controversial, is likely to be
achieved sometime soon.
“The question isn’t whether they did it or not, but whether there is any
scientific reason to believe any top human fertility expert can’t try and even
succeed in cloning a human,” said Randall Prather, an animal embryo
researcher at the University of Missouri.
Dr. Prather and other scientists engaged in animal cloning experiments said
that breakthroughs in recent months in cloning mice and cattle, following the
cloning of a sheep in early 1997, suggest that duplicating such efforts in
humans is, if not possible now, likely to be possible soon. “The science is
there, or nearly there,” said Dr. Prather who is attempting to clone pigs. He
noted that, if anything, humans, for technical reasons, “may turn out to
actually be easier to clone than some other animal species.”
The Korean cloning announcement by fertility doctors Wednesday in Seoul
triggered a world-wide response of skepticism and alarm. Most countries,
including the U.S., have called for a moratorium on human cloning research
until many ethical and scientific issues are addressed. Indeed, the Korean
researchers said they stopped their experiment after the embryo had
developed into only four cells, meaning that it is still unknown whether the
cloned embryo could have developed into a viable or full-term and healthy
“Even in the animal research we know there is a giant leap from creating a
four-cell embryo to creating a live birth,” said Jorge Piedrahita, an
embryologist working on cloning pigs and cows at the college of veterinary
medicine at Texas A&M University. Dr. Piedrahita said in the successful
cloning of mice and cows reported in recent months “many of the cloned
embryos didn’t advance to birth, probably because they were defective in
Still, the Korean announcement is being widely seen as evidence that
cloning is moving forward much faster than many expected. In February
1997, Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Scotland stunned the scientific
community when he reported the successful cloning of a lamb he named
Dolly from the cell of an adult sheep.
Previously, scientists had believed that it wasn’t possible to create a genetic
replica of an adult mammal by using genetic material from a cell of an adult.
That is because, unlike embryo cells that serve as the basis for all later
cells, adult cells have very specific functions that keep their activity
restricted. For example, scientists believed muscle cells could only make
other muscle cells and nerve cells could only make other nerve cells.
But Dr. Wilmut destroyed that belief. This past summer, scientists in Hawaii
using a somewhat different technique than was used in Scotland produced
numerous clones from the cells of adult mice, and two weeks ago Japanese
reserachers produced four calves from a single cow.
In a news conference in Seoul, Lee Bo Yeon, a fertility specialist at
Kyunghee University Hospital, said he and his colleague, Kim Sung Bo,
used a technique similar to the one used by the Hawaiian scientists. In the
experiment, he said he took the genetic material from the nucleus of a cell
taken from tissue near the ovum of an infertile woman and substituted it for
the genetic material in an egg removed from the same woman. As in the
Hawaiian research, the scientists prompted the egg to use the adult genetic
material to divide into a four-cell embryo.
Dr. Lee said the embryo was then destroyed because of ethical concerns.
South Korea restricts human cloning research but doesn’t yet forbid it. In the
U.S., an ethics commission in 1997 recommended a five-year moratorium on
human cloning research and President Clinton has banned the use of federal
funds to conduct human cloning experiments.
The Korean announcement led biology experts in the U.S. to question the
veracity and ethics of the Korean team. “My first response is that science by
press conference in an area as controversial as this is somewhere between
despicable and devious,” said Arthur Caplan, who runs the Center for
Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Caplan said there is no way
to verify the Koreans’ claim and it raises all sorts of worries that others will
be conducting similar experiments in the absence of proof that it is safe or
“Human cloning claims in the past have been fraught with fraud and
misinformation,” Dr. Caplan said. “This isn’t how scientists with integrity
But several well-respected ethicists grappling with concerns since the
cloning of Dolly say that human cloning per se is not necessarily unethical
or immoral. “If in fact people want to produce a child that is their biological
duplicate there is no reason not to let it occur,” said Lee Silver, a geneticist
at Princeton University.
Dr. Silver said it may someday be widely acceptable for infertile couples or
single infertile women to use cloning as a way to conceive a child
biologically related to them. Norman Fost, a bioethicist at University of
Wisconsin, said it may even be acceptable to conceive and raise a child
who is a genetic copy in order to use the child as a bone marrow donor.
“Right now a lot of the concern about human cloning is based on the fact that
people say it makes them feel queasy,” Dr. Fost said. “These so-called
queasinartists don’t provide any proof that cloning will create children who
are in some way defective or dangerous to society.”
Ruth Macklin, an ethicist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New
York, said the principal concern right now is whether human cloning can be
done safely. “There is no evidence, and the Koreans don’t seem to provide
any yet either, that you can conceive a child this way without a high risk that
the child will be born physically damaged,” she said. She and others said
that, in fact, the current moratorium on research may inhibit efforts to assure
that human cloning is done safely. Most ethicists said, however, they expect
that much more work must be done in animals, especially primates, before
any human cloning should proceed.