What is cloning?
Cloning, in general, is defined as the number of various processes that are undertaken to produce an exact genetical copy of a biological entity. This process works by carefully extracting a genetic part, for example, DNA from a living organism and creating a new living organism from scratch.
The first ever animal that was successfully cloned was called Dolly, the sheep and this result was achieved by utilizing a process called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) which basically means that a somatic cell, for example, a skin cell, was extracted from one sheep and this DNA was infused on the egg cell of another sheep, which had its nucleus artificially removed from beforehand. This is a result of DNA being directly injected into an embryo or by harnessing electric currents.
This was touted as a revolutionary step when it was first achieved in 1997 and ushered in great advancements in the field of Biology, but after the initial buzz subsided it has since been trumped by the introduction of a much more advanced method, known as Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC), aka stem cell technology. iPSC are cells taken from or blood that has been purposely re-engineered inside a laboratory and injected back into an embryonic like pluripotent state, thus enabling the researchers to create a cell with any type of cell they desired. It is a promising breakthrough for science as it can be used to treat major ailments like diabetes or create fresh red blood cells that are free of cancer.
2006 saw the Nobel Prize winning scientist Shinya Yamanaka demonstrate the re-engineering of active cells inside mice to become inactive. A year after that, many scientific studies conducted by well-reputed researchers resulted in the outcome of the creation of the first ever human iPSC.
The modern day uses of cloning
Although cloning is strictly regulated inside quality controlled laboratories, there exists a huge industry for cloning animals for commercial purposes.
Cloning is a brilliant method to assist endangered species to survive, promote the resistance to deadly diseases, or even increase the output of milk from animals such as cows. It’s also possible to clone household pets.
Various companies have already started to clone livestock animals such as able horses, cows, pigs, sheep, and goats – as well as pets. Cloning presents several advantages as a certain trait of an animal could be given preference over other traits, such as studs could be cloned to create high-quality race horses that provide breeders with exceptional leverage on a race track for horses.
The future of human cloning
Right now, mice are being vigorously tested to figure out what possible side effects could arise due to cloning. As mice and humans share a similar genetic makeup, studying mice could theoretically give us a better understanding as to what repercussions might occur due to human cloning. There exists considerable backlash from cloning humans, which in turn is hampering the various scientific studies as there is a growing fear that human clones could be used for illegal purposes, or cloning dead humans or creating super soldiers to fight out endless wars. Despite some of the positive sides of human cloning, like the cure for various life-threatening diseases, or living longer lives due to artificially being healthy, the negative sides of this technology outweigh all the good sides. It could render identifying humans with biosignatures useless. Your own fingerprint could exist with your clone so if your clone commits a crime, you might get implicated for that. Facial recognition scans would display multiple matches, and eye scans would virtually be useless.
There are also ethical issues for which many people are against human cloning right now. For example, it is actually possible to clone clones indefinitely. Just last year, scientists in Japan used a revolutionary new method to recreate 26 generations of cloned mice from a single DNA. In total, they managed to create 598 mice, all genetically similar to each other. This implies that humans could also follow a similar path, and a single genetic code could be immortal as it could possibly live on among thousands of generations. Thus, making your genetic code immortal!
Despite all this, the fact remains that currently the biomedical applications of human cloning still remain extremely difficult. Scientists have to take a lot of precautions before researching this topic, as not doing so would result in serious ramifications. Right now, cloning mostly remains on animals only. It does not look like it is going to change anytime soon.