Three years ago a sheep named Dolly became the biggest news since the first
successful open-heart surgery. Dolly, unlike every other mammal on earth is an
identical copy of its mother. Dolly has no father. The "miracle" of
cloning was preformed by Dr. Ian Willmut and his team at Roslin Institute in
Edinburgh, Scotland. The new research has opened a large amount of possibilities
for the future use of the technique as well as many ethical issues regarding
human cloning. The Roslin Institute team created Dolly by transferring the
nuclei of adult sheep cells in to the egg of another female sheep. The egg had
its natural nucleus removed by microsurgery. Ones the new nucleus was implanted
in to the egg cell it now had a complete set of genes identical to the sheep who
donated the nucleus. The transplanted egg cells were then cultured for a short
period of time and implanted into a female sheep to carry the pregnancy to term.
The nuclei of many different adult cells were used in the experiment including
mammary gland cells, which were the ones to produce the successful result. The
sheep born as a result of the experiment was an exact genetic duplicate, clone,
of the sheep donating the adult nucleus. Though other mammals have been cloned
before, they were always created form embryonic cells, never a cell of a
fully-grown animal. This research also proved that adult animal cells do contain
a workable copy of all the genetic material needed to create a whole new animal.
Willmut's technique is very difficult and requires a lot of work. Because of
this, it is not practical way of creating animals. The company who funded the
research plans on using cloning in order to create animals that will produce
important drugs in their milk, but at this moment it is not the best way to do
it. On the other hand, the difficult method will probably be improved and
simplified in the future becoming an important tool in biomedical research.
Unfortunately, this new discovery opens the door to the ethics of human cloning.
Most scientists agree that human cloning is wrong and should be banned. It is
now illegal in many nations including England but remains technically legal in
the United States. The US government refuses to fund any human cloning research
and has asked that all private companies do the same. There are many ethical
issues involved in the debate about human cloning including the fear that people
will create clones in order to use them as organ transplants. The line between
cloning for research purposes and for selfish reasons is very thin and many
ethics committees have been created to discuss and determine the limits to which
this technique should be allowed to go. Though the Wilmut technique is very
complicated and requires a lot of work, the equipment needed can be found in any
advanced biological research lab and it will be very difficult to prevent
doctors from offering cloning as an option to patients who need help, such as
the parents of a dying child. Other labs have now confided their progress toward
recreating Wilmut's results and cloning may, one day, become as commonplace as
in vitro fertilization.