Cloning: The Practical Applications, the Process and Its Issue With Ethics

Reasons for Cloning

Scientist over the years have proven that it is possible to clone almost any organism, possibly humans. Though there is a branch of cloning research purely focused on learning more about the science of cloning, the majority of research on cloning is applied science, and done with an intent for practical applications.

Cloning Animals for Disease Study

Scientist often use animals to study strands of viruses and bacteria that cause disease and infection. Special breeds of animals are needed to produce accurate data and are created in a time consuming process. Cloning would drastically reduce the time required to produce these animals and would also create a perfectly identical controlled variable for each experiment.

Cloning to Produce Stem Cells

Stems cells are a major branch of research today. They are used to build, maintain, and repair cells that are vital for the health of the body. Stems cells can be manipulated to heal diseases and injuries, and are currently being used for bone marrow transplant. The main problem that researchers face is getting the body to accept foreign stem cells, as they are not recognized and rejected by the body. Cloning would solve this problem, as an identical batch of stem cells could be created, which would then be readily accepted by the body. These identical stem cells could then be applied for much more significant affects. Potentially, whole organs could be grown, which would provide a perfect and functioning match for vital organ transplants. To see a more in depth explanation on stem cells visit Blake M.'s wiki page on stem cell research.

Cloning to Revive Endangered or Extinct Species

Through cloning, it is theoretically possible to revive extinct species such as dinosaurs. All that would be needed is a well preserved sample of DNA, and a currently living surrogate mother that is a closely related species. However, this is most likely to never happen, as the likely-hood of finding a DNA sample that is well preserved is very slim. Though reviving dinosaurs is theoretically possible, yet far fetched, scientist have managed to resurrect more recently extinct animals. Another standing issue is that a male and female would be needed to actually revive the species. Researchers believe, that once a female is create, it could be possible to manipulate chromosomes and create a male. In 2009, a group of scientist successfully cloned several extinct wild mountain goat. Unfortunately, the longest surviving goat died a short time after being born.

Scientist have found that cloning endangered species is much for feasible, due to the fact that living animals could provide healthy DNA samples. Scientist have been successfully in cloning several species, including bison, deer, and coyotes.

Cloning Livestock for Higher Quality Products

The idea behind cloning livestock, is essentially to recreate the specific livestock that produced high quality meat or other products such as milk. The quality and amount of meat produced by cattle can be truly determined only after being slaughtered. Cattle are usually neutered shortly after birth, and are unable to pass on their potentially superior genes. Cloning would solve this problem, as samples of DNA could be taken from the dead carcasses. However, cloning is more expensive than normal breeding and would be used merely to recreate the cattle with superior genes, which would then be passed on to the next generation.

Cloning Humans

The cloning of humans is a highly controversial topic being discussed around the globe. It raises many ethical issues and is frowned upon by many religious affiliations. The majority of lawmakers, politicians, scientists, and general population, see cloning humans as immoral and strongly oppose further studies in this specific field.

However, when all issues with ethics are put to the side, cloning has many practical and beneficial applications. Supporters of human cloning see it as a solution to infertility problems, and also envision the cloning of great minds and geniuses, which could promote the advancement of technology in our society. Others go as far as to suggest the creation of clones solely to harvest them for organs, which would then later be used for organ transplants.

Progress in actually cloning a human has been limited due to laws and ethical as well as technical problems. Although other animals have been cloned, the attempts at cloning humans has mostly resulted in embryos failing to fully develop.

The Process of Cloning

Artificial Embryo Twinning

Clones are genetically perfectly identical. Clones can actually naturally occur naturally, in the form of identical twins. In this natural formation of clones, the embryo splits into two identical cells shortly after fertilization. The two separate cells continue to replicate and results in the growth of two separate but identical organisms.

Scientist are able to artificially replicate this naturally occurring splitting of cells in a lab. In a process, called artificial embryo twinning, an egg is first fertilized, creating a embryo. The embryo is then allowed to divide, and the two identical halves are placed on separate Petri dishes. After some development, the separate but identical embryos are placed into a surrogate mother and are left there to fully develop. Once birthed, the result is two genetically identical and artificially created clones.

Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT)

Somatic cell nuclear transfer is another method used to produce a genetically identical copy. Somatic cell is the term to describe all cells besides the sex cells. Somatic cells have all the chromosomes needed to carry the genetic information specific to each organism. The technique behind SCNT is actually simple. The DNA containing the genetic information in an egg cell is removed by use of a glass pipet. The DNA in the somatic cell of the organism being cloned is also removed by a glass pipet. The DNA from the somatic cell is then place into the egg that had its DNA removed, creating a cell that acts similar to a fertilized egg. The cell is then placed into a surrogate mother and later birthed as an exact copy of the organism that had provided the DNA sample.

Recent Developments in Clone Research (Last Decades)

  • 1996 - Dolly the sheep becomes the first mammal created by SCNT
  • 1998 - Mice, cows, and goats are successfully clone through SCNT
  • 2001 - Endangered animals are cloned by SCNT
  • 2007 - Primate embryonic stem cells are created by SCNT, with a Rhesus monkey
  • 2013 - Human embryonic stem cells are created through SCNT


"Cloning." Cloning. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2014. <

Blake M.- All of these uses of cloning seem very valid and beneficial, but do the uses really stop here, and could cloning be used for other purposes as well? Upon reading your article, the possibility of utilizing cloning to extend ones life span occurred to me as well. Given the advancement of other fields of medical science, could cloning be used to create new, powerful organs that could be then be used to surgically replace ones existing organs, and thus expand the length of their life? It seems to me that this could eliminate causes of death such as organ failure, and thus revitalize and individual and add years to their life.

David K. : You are correct in stating that there are more applications of clone research than those stated above. The applications discussed above are merely a description of the major focuses of clone research and do not do justice to its much more numerous applications such as the cloning of fruits or the cloning of vegetables. However, cloning is hindered greatly by ethical issues, especially due to the concern of the applications that you have stated. Yes, cloning could theoretically be used to create an identical self, which would allow for a perfect match in an organ transplant. A perfect match would alleviate any fear of the body rejecting the organ, which would allow for a more successful operation. This would indefinitely serve in prolonging life, as one could replace every organ with his/her clone. This is a major part of what supporters of clone research envision. When ignoring ethical and moral values, this is highly rational and beneficial. However, the opposition against ideas like this is strong, with the majority seeing it as immoral. The most adamant opposition against this issue on cloning comes from religious orders such as the Catholic Church. They hold the firm belief that life should only be created naturally by a male and a female. Despite all the opposition is is certain research in this controversial field of cloning will continue, as its great benefits cannot be ignored.

Anuj R.- David, the wild mountain goat you referred to is called an ibex. Besides this, my question is, if so much money is being pushed into cloning research to revive extinct species, producing ephemeral results at best, do you believe that it is ethical not to use this money to help the currently endangered species? First of all, to officially declare a species not extinct, two healthy, fertile members must be present. Also, (excluding the African bullfrog) these members must be of opposite sex. I will now refer to a specific example:

The Indus river dolphin is an endangered species. The decline in population is due to dam building, entanglement in fishing nets, boat traffic, and pollution. Now, do you think it would be better to spend thousands and thousands of dollars of research money endeavoring for such implausible results or to use this money towards an environmental restoration effort that would most likely improve the dolphins' conditions?

Olivia D. - Anuj, I like your idea about the river dolphins and trying to figure out the best way to spend money in order to protect them. I see what you are saying about spending money trying to improve the conditions of their living environment. It makes sense because if the place where they live becomes better, than it is easier for them to reproduce and keep their species at a stable population. But you said most likely improve. What if it is not their living conditions that are the main cause of their endangerment? Then all the money spent taking away boat traffic and pollution would be wasted and there would be no more dolphins. Would it not be wiser to spend the money cloning the dolphins because it is being done more and more? Clone research and experimentation is becoming more and more successful. Knowing this, I feel like it would make more sense to clone the dolphins because it seems to me that cloning has a (almost) known outcome, while eliminating dams and fishing nets (although very helpful and beneficial to the environment) may or may not be the cause of endangerment.

Kyle R.- Olivia, while it may seem more prudent to simply clone the dolphins now without making their natural habitat better suited to their needs then they would simply keep dying. An ethical issue with cloning is hat many of the cloned animals have very short lifespans and may develop a disease. Dolly, the cloned sheep, contracted a lung disease that was usually found in older sheep and died young. Cloning seems to be to be a very unstable science at the moment and simply clearing away pollution would do more good in the long tun than simply cloning animals and leaving them in the same polluted environment. In the future, if global warming is not halted and humans begin to die out, would it make more sense to clone humans, simply to have them die out again, or create more stable living conditions that will last longer?

Zoe-Kyle, while I would say yes for the long run it may appear as though the smarter decision would be for ensuring living conditions do improve, have humans not been trying to cleanse the rivers and land for years? While pollution did increase tenfold due to technology, in the last decade our tools have become not only more efficient, but also more pollution conscience. In fact, older versions of cars have to pass a thorough check to ensure that it fits standards of street-legal cars, but also that it does not produce an excess of toxic carbon dioxide. Maybe some of these issues may not lie completely in the environment considering no exponential improvement has been done, there could be a deeper reason as to why these things are happening. If some certain research money was spent on investigating and perfecting cloning, rather than funding an issue that really can't be stopped due to ignorant humans continually making the Earth as their trashcan, wouldn't we be able to help preserve the species of animals while we still can before they all die out?

David K. There is plenty of rational support for each side of the argument. Zoe and Olivia made good points, stating that we have already spent large sums of money on trying to improve conditions. Despite constant effort, research, and laws, the status of natural ecosystems continue to deteriorate. By this logic, abandoning this method and focusing on clone research seems the most rational. However, as Kyle pointed out, the clones that scientist have been able to create are unhealthy and usually have died shortly after birth. Natural selection states that animals need to adapt to their surroundings to survive. Even if the dolphins were cloned successfully, they would be an exact copy of the dolphin that was already ill-suited to its environment. Therefore, cloning would not help a endangered species recover as the ones created would continue to die off.

Upon reading this there was one question that kept popping up in my mind, could one use a cloned organ to revive a dead pet or even family member? If so, what would the semantics of the process be and what would some ehtical issues be regarding this process? Would it be possible for a scientist to clone dead cells or organs to produce an exact, living replica?
-Cole K.

Olivia D. - Theoretically, I think you could use a cloned organ to revive a deceased family member. I am not sure what this would take but regarding the ethical side of the matter, I would not want to revive a dead family member or friend. Once someone has passed on, they are meant to be gone, as sad as it is that they are gone. I think it would cause too much pain to have gone through all that suffering and pain of losing someone and then have them come back. If they did come back, would they truly be themselves again? They could be completely different from what they were when they were alive.

David K. It is possible to clone humans, but this has not been achieved partially due to the technical difficulties of successfully cloning such a complex organism, and partially due to the ethical opposition against theses applications. If you had enough funds you could clone a deceased cat. There is a biotechnology company in the US that has previously offered cat cloning services. However, the downside to this, is the cloned cat would not act like the previous cat due to different experiences and nourishment. This would be the same for humans. Even if a perfectly functioning clone was created, the clone would merely be a genetic copy, and most probably would act nothing like the previously deceased family member.