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Human clone

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Human clone

Human cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy of a human. It does not refer to monozygotic multiple births or the reproduction of humans/animals cells or tissue. The ethics of cloning is an extremely controversial issue. The term is generally used to refer to artificial human cloning; human clones in the form of identical twins are commonplace, with their cloning occurring during the natural process of reproduction.

There are two commonly discussed types of human cloning: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning involves cloning cells from an adult for use in medicine and transplants, and is an active area of research. Reproductive cloning would involve making cloned humans, for couples wanting to have a child, but cannot naturally.

A third type of cloning called replacement cloning is a theoretical possibility, and would be a combination of therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Replacement cloning would entail the replacement of an extensively damaged, failed, or failing body through cloning followed by whole or partial brain transplant or harvesting the internal organs of the clone.

History

Although the possibility of cloning humans had been the subject of speculation for much of the twentieth century, scientists and policy makers began to take the prospect seriously in the 1960s.

Nobel Prize winning geneticist Joshua Lederberg advocated cloning and genetic engineering in a seminal article in The American Naturalist in 1966 and again, the following year, in The Washington Post.[1] He sparked a debate with conservative bioethicist Leon Kass, who wrote at the time that "the programmed reproduction of man will, in fact, dehumanize him." Another Nobel Laureate, James D. Watson, publicized the potential and the perils of cloning in his Atlantic Monthly essay, "Moving Toward the Clonal Man", in 1971.[2]

The technology of cloning mammals, although far from reliable, has reached the point where many scientists are knowledgeable, the literature is readily available, and the implementation of the technology is not very expensive compared to many other scientific processes. For that reason Lewis D. Eigen has argued that human cloning attempts will be made in the next few years and may well have been already begun.[3]

In May, 2013 a group of scientists published a report of successful human cloning.[4] The approach involved the somatic cell nuclear transfer from human fibroblasts to oocytes and resulted in viable embryos developing to the blastocyst stage. The authors managed to obtain embryonic stem cell from the blastocysts which can lead to therapeutic cloning. It remained unclear however if the cloned embryos are capable of further development as no such experiments were attempted.

Popularization

There are two types of popularization of human cloning; the popularization that critiques its ethics and implications, and the ones that advocate its uses and benefits to society. Popular media has a strong hold on its coverage, and can sometimes sway views. In an article in the November 8, 1993 article of Time Magazine, cloning was portrayed in a negative way, modifying Michelangelo's Creation of Adam to depict Adam with five identical hands. Newsweek Magazine's March 10, 1997 issue also critiqued the ethics of human cloning, and included a graphic depicting identical babies in beakers. There are also many books that critique the ethics of human cloning. One such book is Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, which satirically describes a world in which gene therapy and human cloning have destroyed any sense of individuality. On the other hand, there are organizations that attempt to portray cloning more positively, through such ideas as organ donation from cloned species. Groups like these advocate human cloning's uses and benefits to the majority of society.[5]

Ethical implications

Advocates of human therapeutic cloning believe the practice could provide genetically identical cells for regenerative medicine, and tissues and organs for transplantation. Such cells, tissues and organs would neither trigger an immune response nor require the use of Immunosuppressive drugs.[6] Both basic research and therapeutic development for serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as improvements in burn treatment and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, are areas that might benefit from such new technology.[7] Trying to find compatible donors is difficult and can take a long time, but with therapeutic cloning, the speed of this process would increase and compatibility would not be an issue.

Proponents claim that human reproductive cloning would also produce benefits. Severino Antinori and Panayiotis Zavos hope to create a fertility treatment that allows parents who are both infertile to have children with at least some of their DNA in their offspring.[8] Some scientists, including Dr. Richard Seed, suggest that human cloning might obviate the human aging process.[9] Dr. Preston Estep has suggested the terms "replacement cloning" to describe the generation of a clone of a previously living person, and "persistence cloning" to describe the production of a cloned body for the purpose of obviating aging, although he maintains that such procedures currently should be considered science fiction and current cloning techniques risk producing a prematurely aged child.[10]

In Aubrey de Grey's proposed SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), one of the considered options to repair the cell depletion related to cellular senescence is to grow replacement tissues from stem cells harvested from a cloned embryo.

Human cloning also raises implications of a socio-ethical nature, particularly concerning the role that cloning might play in changing the shape of family structure by complicating the role of parenting within a family of convoluted kinship relations. For example, a female DNA donor would be the clone's genetic twin, rather than mother, complicating the genetic and social relationships between mother and child as well as the relationships between other family members and the clone.[11]

The high expectations that could be placed on cloned individuals raises questions pertaining the ethics of human cloning and whether these issues are morally problematic as well. Expectations that the cloned individuals act identically to the human they were cloned could greatly infringe on the right to self-determination. This term means that all humans should have the right to decide who and what they want to be to some extent. The cloned children would be violated in knowing that they were genetically induced to act a certain way. The cloned children may also feel that they are expected to live a life that was predetermined.[12]

Current law

Romania

Human cloning is explicitly prohibited in the Charter of Romania's Constitutional rights. It is viewed as a basic violation of a human's right to safety of identity, and personality.

United Nations

On December 13, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly began elaborating an international convention against the reproductive cloning of humans. A broad coalition of States, including Spain, Italy, the Philippines, the United States, Costa Rica and the Holy See sought to extend the debate to ban all forms of human cloning, noting that, in their view, therapeutic human cloning violates human dignity. Costa Rica proposed the adoption of an international convention to ban all forms of human cloning. Unable to reach a consensus on a binding convention, in March 2005 a non-binding United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning, calling for the ban of all forms of Human Cloning contrary to human dignity, was adopted. [13][14]

Australia

Australia had prohibited human cloning,[15] though as of December 2006, a bill legalising therapeutic cloning and the creation of human embryos for stem cell research passed the House of Representatives. Within certain regulatory limits, and subject to the effect of state legislation, therapeutic cloning is now legal in some parts of Australia.

European Union

The European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine prohibits human cloning in one of its additional protocols, but this protocol has been ratified only by Greece, Spain and Portugal. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union explicitly prohibits reproductive human cloning. The charter is legally binding for the institutions of the European Union under the Treaty of Lisbon.

Serbia

Human cloning is explicitly prohibited in Article 24, "Right to Life" of the 2006 Constitution of Serbia. The same article also forbids capital punishment.[16]

United States

In 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007, the United States House of Representatives voted whether to ban all human cloning, both reproductive and therapeutic. Each time, divisions in the Senate over therapeutic cloning prevented either competing proposal (a ban on both forms or reproductive cloning only) from passing. On March 10, 2010 a bill (HR 4808) was introduced with a section banning federal funding for human cloning.[17] Such a law, if passed, would not prevent research from occurring in private institutions (such as universities) that have both private and federal funding. There are currently no federal laws in the United States which ban cloning completely, and any such laws would raise difficult Constitutional questions similar to the issues raised by abortion. Thirteen American states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia) ban reproductive cloning and three states (Arizona, Maryland, Missouri) prohibit use of public funds for such activities.[18]

United Kingdom

On January 14, 2001 the British government passed The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001[19] to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 by extending allowable reasons for embryo research to permit research around stem cells and cell nuclear replacement, thus allowing therapeutic cloning. However, on 15 November 2001, a pro-life group won a High Court legal challenge, which struck down the regulation and effectively left all forms of cloning unregulated in the UK. Their hope was that Parliament would fill this gap by passing prohibitive legislation.[20][21] Parliament was quick to pass the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001 which explicitly prohibited reproductive cloning. The remaining gap with regard to therapeutic cloning was closed when the appeals courts reversed the previous decision of the High Court.[22]

The first licence was granted on August 11, 2004 to researchers at the University of Newcastle to allow them to investigate treatments for diabetes, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.[23] The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, a major review of fertility legislation, repealed the 2001 Cloning Act by making amendments of similar effect to the 1990 Act. The 2008 Act also allows experiments on hybrid human-animal embryos.[24]

Canada

Canadian law prohibits the following: cloning humans, cloning stem cells, growing human embryos for research purposes, sex selection, and buying or selling of embryos, sperm, eggs or other human reproductive material. It also bans making changes to human DNA that would pass from one generation to the next, including use of animal DNA in humans. Surrogate mothers are legally allowed, as is donation of sperm or eggs for reproductive purposes. Human embryos and stem cells are also permitted to be donated for research.

There have been consistent calls in Canada to ban human reproductive cloning since the 1993 Report of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. Polls have indicated that an overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose human reproductive cloning, though the regulation of human cloning continues to be a significant national and international policy issue. The notion of "human dignity" is commonly used to justify cloning laws. The basis for this justification is that reproductive human cloning necessarily infringes notions of human dignity.[25][26][27][28]

Public opinions

Religious views

The Roman Catholic Church, under the papacy of Benedict XVI, has condemned the practice of human cloning, in the magisterial instruction Dignitas Personae, stating that it represents a "grave offense to the dignity of that person as well as to the fundamental equality of all people."[29]

Sunni Muslims consider human cloning to be forbidden by Islam.[30] The Islamic Fiqh Academy, in its Tenth Conference proceedings, which was convened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the period from June 28, 1997 to July 3, 1997, issued a Fatwā stating that human cloning is haraam (sinful).[31][32]

In popular culture

Cloning is a recurring theme in a wide variety of contemporary science fiction, ranging from action films such as the 2000 film The 6th Day and Resident Evil (film series) to comedies such as Woody Allen's 1973 film Sleeper.[33]

Cloning has been used in fiction as a way of recreating historical figures. In the 1976 Ira Levin novel The Boys from Brazil and its 1978 film adaptation,[34] Josef Mengele uses cloning to create copies of Adolf Hitler. A Parade of Mirrors and Reflections, a novel by Anatoly Kudryavitsky, centers on the cloning of deceased Soviet premier Yuri Andropov.

Several works of fiction portray a future in which human cloning has become the normal process of reproduction for various reasons. Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World envisions a futuristic world in which large numbers of clones are cultivated industrially and conditioned before birth for specific castes.

The implications of using clones to replace deceased loved ones are explored in several works of fiction. In Margaret Peterson Haddix's novel Double Identity, the main character discovers that she is a clone of her deceased older sister.

A recurring sub-theme of cloning fiction is the use of clones as a supply of organs for transplantation. The 2005 Kazuo Ishiguro novel Never Let Me Go and the 2010 film adaption[35] are set in an alternate history in which cloned humans are created for the sole purpose of providing organ donations to naturally born humans, despite the fact that they are fully sentient and self-aware. The 2005 film The Island[36] revolves around a similar plot, with the exception that the clones are unaware of the reason for their existence.

The use of human cloning for military purposes has also been explored in several works. The Clone Wars[37] portrayed in the Star Wars franchise depicts the use of clones to rapidly create a well-trained and expendable army (Specified as being more adaptive than the droids (autonomous robots) used by the opposing military force for the same purpose).

The exploitation of human clones for dangerous and undesirable work was examined in the 2009 British science fiction film Moon.[38]

In the comedy film Multiplicity, a man clones himself three times with the help of a geneticist.

In the futuristic novel The House of the Scorpion, clones are used to grow organs for their wealthy "owners", and the main character was a complete clone.

In the futuristic novel Cloud Atlas (novel) & subsequent film Cloud Atlas (film), one of the story lines focuses on a genetically-engineered Fabricant Clone named Sonmi~451 who is one of millions raised in an artificial "wombtank," destined to serve from birth.[39]

In the 2013 television show Orphan Black,[40] cloning is used as a scientific double blind study on the behavioral adaptation of the clones.

The MMORPG EVE Online and online FPS DUST 514 takes place in the distant future where the player characters are all clones; at the moment of death, the person's brain-state is mapped, transmitted and applied to a 'blank' clone in a station or facility some distance away.

In the anime/manga series Neon Genesis Evangelion, human cloning is a topic which features heavily around the origin of the character Ayanami Rei.

A Number is a 2002 play by English playwright Caryl Churchill which addresses the subject of human cloning and identity, especially nature versus nurture. The story, set in the near future, is structured around the conflict between a father (Salter) and his sons (Bernard 1, Bernard 2, and Michael Black) – two of whom are clones of the first one. A Number was adapted by Caryl Churchill for television, in a co-production between the BBC and HBO Films.[41] Starring Rhys Ifans and Tom Wilkinson, it was broadcast on BBC Two on 10 Sep 2008.[42]

The Spider-Man Clone Saga.

References

Further reading

  • Araujo, Robert John, “The UN Declaration on Human Cloning: a survey and assessment of the debate,” 7 The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 129 - 149 (2007).

External links

  • "Variations and voids: the regulation of human cloning around the world" academic article by S. Pattinson & T. Caulfield
  • Moving Toward the Clonal Man
  • Should We Really Fear Reproductive Human Cloning
  • The Pros and Cons of Human Cloning
  • [3]
  • United Nation declares law against cloning.
  • GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON HUMAN CLONING BY VOTE OF 84-34-37
  • Cloning Fact Sheet
  • How Human Cloning Will Work
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