Exactly what is cloning? Cloning is a term used to describe technological processes that involves the production of organisms bearing identical genes. In its’ most basic term, it can be simply referred to as a copy or a replica of a material or a body. Scientists refer to the copy as clones. Clones are not just ‘lab-made’; the presence of twins in our environment attests to the natural presence of clones.
Over the past centuries, there were many researches and experiments regarding cloning technologies and most of them would include a wide variety of biological materials, including DNA fragments, cells, tissues and even whole organisms, such as a sheep. Although, there are some claims made by the some scientists on the creation of human clones, the evidences were lacking hence up to now human cloning is still regarded as a fiction. However, as of 2001, there were some discoveries on the creation of the first human cloned embryo.
The method used for the successful attempt was therapeutic cloning; a method that involves creation of an embryonic clone, then allowing the egg cell to multiply in lab plates so that stem cells can be harvested from the dividing cells. Unfortunately, this will not result to human clones. When collecting the stem cells, the embryo gets damaged and this process will not proceed any further. However there are certain benefits for collecting the stem cells even though the method entails embryo destruction.
Stem cells has the ability to generate into any type of cells, meaning, it can be grown in the lab and then used to replaced any damaged or diseased tissues found in the brain or in any other parts of the human body. This also means that studying the varied diseases is made easier. Exactly how is human embryo cloning conducted? Human embryo cloning starts first with the collection of an egg (from female ovaries of course! ) then transferring this egg to the plate and allowing it to mature under controlled lab conditions.
When the egg matures, a very fine pointed pipette is used to hold the mature egg in place for insertion. The egg is carefully drilled with an extremely fine needle and then the genetic material inside is carefully sucked out. When the genetic material is removed, a desired nucleus of the desired cell is inserted into the empty region. Afterwards, the cell is carefully incubated much like we treat our babies. Chemicals and growth factors are used to coax the cell to multiply or to divide.
After approximately a day or 24 hours of nourishing the cell, it will begin to divide. Note that the cells here contain only the genetic material of the donor cell. The cells divide progressively from single to four celled to many celled. At fifth or fourth day, under nourished ‘lab conditions’ the cells will have reached the number of 100 and will form a structure similar to a hollow ball. This is referred to in biology books as the blastula stage and the ball as the blastocyst. Inside the hollow ball, masses of cell can be found which contains the celebrated stem cells.
The ball is destroyed, the inner mass harvested and transferred to a plate and the stem cells are allowed to grow. This stem cells are again grown into different cell types so that they can be injected to patients. So what is the difference between the natural way of making embryo and this one? The natural embryo carries two different sets of chromosomes from the sperm-fertilized egg whereas two similar sets of chromosome from the donor nucleus are inserted to the cloned cell. So the genes in the cloned cell are similar to the donor.
Cloning embryos do not meet 100% acceptance with the crowd and there are those that contended that it is unethical saying that it defeats the natural way and destroys God’s will. Still, we cannot negate its’ benefits for the sick and injured. Although cloning humans has been shown to be still impossible, cloning human embryos is very much possible through therapeutic cloning —insertion of a nucleus through an empty egg and allowing it to divide—that of which also posses medical and research benefits.