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Cloning

Cloning

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

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Tutorial

What's Covered

In this lesson, we'll discuss the process of cloning by looking at the different types of cloning that exist, as well as the pros and cons of cloning.

The specific areas of focus include:

  1. Types of cloning
    1. Therapeutic cloning
    2. Reproductive cloning
  2. Pros and cons of cloning

1. TYPES OF CLONING

Cloning is the process of producing a genetic copy of a cell or an organism. 

So far, scientists have cloned bacteria in recombinant DNA technology, and embryos for stem cell use. They've also cloned animals, one of the most famous examples being Dolly the sheep.

There are two different types of cloning that can be used:

  • Therapeutic
  • Reproductive

Term to Know

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

a. Therapeutic Cloning

Therapeutic cloning is a type of cloning in which an embryo is cloned as a source of embryonic stem cells. These embryonic stem cells are then used to grow tissues and organs that can serve as organ transplants. 

Again, the express purpose of therapeutic cloning is to create sources of embryonic stem cells.

Terms to Know

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

b. Reproductive Cloning 

Reproductive cloning is another type of cloning technology in which a cloned embryo is created. That cloned embryo is then transferred into a woman's uterus, where it can develop into a baby. 

There are actually some new technologies being taken into consideration that would allow the cloned embryo's genetic makeup to be altered in a desired way before it's transferred into the woman's uterus. This is almost like a "build-a-baby." Basically, parents would be able to choose certain genetic traits that they want their baby to display before it's transferred into the uterus. 

The parents could choose physical characteristics, such as hair and eye color, because the embryo's genetic makeup would have the ability to be altered before it was implanted. 

This is just one of the different ways that reproductive cloning is developing and being used.

Term to Know

  • 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.

2. PROS AND CONS OF CLONING

There are obviously some pros and cons that go along with a scientific process like cloning. 

One of the cons, or ethical issues, with cloning is that oftentimes cloned organisms have health problems.  Scientists have noticed this with some of the cloned animals that they've produced— these animals tend to have a lot of health issues, and they will age faster than normal. 

Stem cells are a touchy ethical subject as well. This issue is always under debate because embryonic stem cells are used in order to grow tissues and organs, and thus they are manipulated in a way.

Additionally, there has been an ethical debate about altering the genetic makeup of an embryo before it's implanted. Many people consider this to be unnatural because rather than letting nature take its course, this process involves messing with aspects of biology that are normally out of people's hands. However, cloning can certainly be a useful tool.

ExampleRecombinant DNA technology can be used to produce insulin at a faster rate and a cheaper cost. 


Big Idea

While there are some ways in which cloning can be really beneficial, there are also some ways in which people feel that it goes a little bit too far. We thus have to try and balance the benefits of this technology with our responsibility to refrain from causing any harm.

Summary

In this lesson, you learned that cloning is the process of creating a genetic replica of a cell or organism. There are two main types of cloning: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning.

You now understand that there are both pros and cons of cloning. While cloning has some very beneficial uses, there are ethical issues surrounding some of the other ways it's being used. The big debate behind cloning right now is in regards to finding the balance between benefiting people and not causing any type of harm.

Good luck!

Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Amanda Soderlind.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • 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.