This lesson will examine the issue of cloning, its uses and the controversy that surrounds it.

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Source: Video and Images Created by Amanda Soderlind

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Welcome to this lesson today on cloning.

Today we are going to be discussing the process of cloning, how it can be used, as well as pros and cons of cloning.

Cloning. Basically, the definition of it is producing a genetic copy of a cell or an organism. These are all examples of cloning that we have done so far. That scientists have done so far. They've cloned bacteria in recombinant DNA technology. They've cloned embryos for stem cell use. And they've also cloned animals. Dolly the sheep is one of the most famous examples of animal cloning.

We have a couple different types of cloning that we're going to be discussing today. One of them is therapeutic cloning.

Therapeutic cloning is a type of cloning in which an embryo is cloned as a source of embryonic stem cells. Then these embryonic stem cells are used to grow tissues and organs that can then be used in the medical field for organ transplants. So therapeutic cloning is cloning embryos in order to use them for the embryonic stem cells.

Reproductive cloning is another type of cloning technology. Basically, in this type of cloning, a cloned embryo is created. And then that cloned embryo is transferred into a woman's uterus, and can then develop into a baby. There's actually some new technologies that are being taken into consideration, where that cloned embryo's genetic makeup could then be altered in a desired way before it's transferred into the woman's uterus.

This is almost like a build-a-baby. Basically, the parent would be able to choose certain genetic traits that they would want their baby to display before it's transferred into the uterus. So you could basically say, I want my baby to have brown hair and blue eyes, et cetera, et cetera. And you'd be able to choose those characteristics, because the embryo's genetic makeup would be able to be altered before it was implanted So these are some different ways that cloning is developing and being used.

There's obviously some pros and cons that go along with it. Some ethical issues. Basically, some of the cons of cloning, or some of the ethical issues with cloning, is that oftentimes cloned organisms have health issues. We've noticed this with some of the cloned animals that we've produced. They oftentimes have a lot of health issues, and they also will age faster.

Stem cells also are kind of a touchy ethical subject, as well. That is always under debate because those embryonic stem cells are used in order to grow tissues and organs, and they're kind of manipulated. So that's kind of a big, touchy point, with an ethical debate behind it, as well.

And then, if you think of-- as I talked about where you can alter the genetic makeup of an embryo before it's implanted-- people have problems with that, too. It has some ethical issues behind it because it's unnatural. You're manipulating nature. You're not letting nature take its course, and you're kind of messing with things that some people think should not be messed with.

So basically, cloning can be a useful tool, like in recombinant DNA technology, for example. We can use this type of technology to produce insulin at a faster rate and a cheaper cost. So there are some ways in which cloning can be really beneficial, but there's also some ways which people feel that sometimes it goes a little bit too far. So we have to try and balance, how do we benefit from this technology without doing any harm. And that's kind of the big debate behind cloning right now, is finding the balance between benefiting without doing any type of harm.

This lesson has been an overview on the process and uses of cloning.

  • Cloning

    The production of a genetic replica of a cell or organism.

  • Theraputic Cloning

    A type of cloning in which embryonic stem cells are used to produce organs or tissues.

  • Reproductive Cloning

    A type of cloning in which a cloned embryo is implanted into a mother's uterus and allowed to develop into a baby.

  • Embryonic Stem Cells

    Cells from an embryo that have not yet specialized and therefore can be used and manipulated to produce various types of organs and tissues.