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Alternative Culture Articles

September 24, 2000

The Clones are Coming!
Royce Carlson

In 1997 the Roslin Institute, just outside Edinburgh, Scotland, made history by cloning a sheep using a technique called nuclear transfer. Dolly became famous around the world as the first cloned farm animal. This development sent the world into turmoil regarding the implications, both good and bad, of cloning. Regardless of the controversy, cloning is here to stay.

Basically there are two known techniques for cloning. The embryo separation technique is actually one that happens in nature. Identical twins are a result of the natural separation of an embryo into two identical embryos. This process can be done artificially by separating an embryo when it reaches the four-cell stage. The other technique that is currently raising the fuss is called nuclear transfer.

Nuclear transfer is a pretty simple concept. You need two creatures, one to provide an infertile ovum and another to provide a cell nucleus. The one providing the cell nucleus is the one being cloned. The nucleus is removed from the cell and implanted in the infertile ovum. The ovum is then given an electrical shock to fuse the new nucleus into the ovum. The ovum is then implanted into the womb of the host animal and, voila, you get a genetic duplicate of the creature that donated the cell nucleus!

The implications of this simple technique are astounding to the imagination, especially when it comes to the possibilities of cloning humans. This is where most of the controversy lies. Is it ethical? What are the religious implications?

What are the scientific possibilities? These questions will be answered soon enough because clone research is continuing.

The Missyplicity Project is a Texas organization whose goal is to clone a dog named Missy who is getting on in years. They have recently completed their laboratory and also are working on a "gene bank" where cells taken from living creatures can be stored just in case somebody wants to clone them later. This brings up the possibility of gene banks being like seed banks. The Genetic Savings and Clone is one such bank. We could conceivable collect cells from endangered species and store them to help preserve bio-diversity. 

Beyond the sentimental possibility of cloning your pets, why not clone your relatives? You could get a cell from your grandfather and raise him yourself as a child! People are already contacting cloning organizations to see if they can clone a relative who is dying, or even already dead (they havenít been able to clone from dead tissue yet, so donít get your hopes up). Still, human cloning is right around the corner.

Visit, for example. This Bahamas-based company, founded by a group called the International Raelian Organization, will be offering cloning services as soon as they can find a place where human cloning hasnít been made illegal yet. For as little as $200,000 you can get granny cloned. They have hosts waiting to gestate the clones and rumor has it they have already begun the process and a human clone may be entering the world for the first time before the end of this year!

Even though the cloning of dead tissue has not been successful, it is still theoretically possible. This opens up even more possibilities. For example, a woolly mammoth, a creature extinct for thousands of years, was found frozen in the ice in Siberia. A surprising amount of tissue was still intact. We could take one of its cells and, via the nuclear transfer technique, use an elephant as a host to clone the mammoth. No doubt, there are unseen problems with this but, hey, what an idea!

Letís go even further. Why not clone Jesus? There are holy relics all over the world that supposedly contain Jesusí hair, etc. Or maybe cells can be taken from the Shroud of Turin and cloned. This isnít my idea. There are at least two "Clone Jesus" web sites out there: Christians for the Cloning of Jesus and  The Second Coming Project.

The somewhat disappointing problem with cloning is the fact that it can only reproduce identical genetic material. If you cloned your brother, he would have an identical body but his personality and identity would be different in much the same way that natural identical twins are not carbon copies of each other in the personality department. You wouldnít get your long lost brother back. Youíd just get someone who looked like him. You would also have to wait for him to grow up. Clones donít grow any faster than natural babies.

Another hope that may be dashed is the idea that we could grow spare-parts bodies. Cloning identical duplicates of yourself just in case one of your organs fails will not be good idea since each clone will have its own identity and personality. If individual organs could be cloned and maintained apart from a living person, that would be another story.

There are serious ethical considerations surrounding all the implications of cloning. Laws are fast being created to make human cloning illegal and to establish protocols for cloning that would, hopefully, limit potential problems. has a great page on the ethical considerations of cloning. Religious leaders are trying to decide if cloning is against their beliefs, and fearful people are envisioning catastrophes. In the meantime, excited scientists and business people are researching, experimenting and planning their commercial ventures. Cloning has already begun. Here come the clones!

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Royce Carlson