Clong: A Step In The Right Direction

  • Category: Science
  • Words: 1503
  • Grade: 100
CLONING: A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Xerox copies. When many people think of the word "cloning", that is what the picture - a Xerox copy of a human, with the exact same appearance and all the knowledge of the "parent". In 1997, this science-fiction technique became a reality with Ian Wilmut's creation of Dolly, the first mammalian clone. Already there is considerable debate over the concept of human clones, when the procedure is far from being perfected enough to even think of attempting it on humans. An infertile couple; a teenager in need of a liver transplant; a baby girl born with a deformed hand; a man who know he is at high risk for a variety of diseases, and doesn't want to endanger the child he wishes to have; all of these would benefit from cloning. Why is anyone even thinking about banning this medically useful technique? Cloning is a constitutional right, it is not a Xerox copier, and it can be used to help humankind.

First of all, cloning is a constitutional right. The Constitution includes the right to privacy, and the Supreme Court has ruled time and time again that right to privacy applies to reproductive freedom. In the case of Eisenstadt vs. Baird, the Supreme Court said, "if the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child." This means that any person in the United States, legally, has the right to do whatever they want involving reproduction, whether this involves simply not having a child, or abortion, or even cloning. Some might argue that this applies only to sexual reproduction, but the case law on the subject says the opposite. In 1990, Illinois tried to outlaw some reproductive technologies and tests, some of which could be used to treat infertility. A federal court denied that law, saying, "it takes no great leap of logic to see that within the cluster of constitutionally protected choices that includes the right to have access to contraceptives, there must be included within that cluster the right to submit to a medical procedure that may bring about, rather than prevent, pregnancy." This means that, whether through sexual reproduction or some technological means, Americans have every right to have or not have a child as they choose, to utilize or not utilize technology for that purpose.

Secondly, cloning is not a perfect copy, as many people seem to fear. Children conceived with the aid cloning technology would almost be genetic twins of the cell donor. But think about this; there are already 1.5 million genetic twins in America. They are commonly called identical twins, but they are simply naturally occurring clones. Physically, they have different fingerprints and different brain structures, among many other examples. Intellectually, they have different IQ's. A recent analysis of 212 studies of twins showed that genes are only responsible for 48% of a person's IQ. Of course, identical twins also have different personalities. Clones would have all the differences from their cell donor that identical twins have from their sibling, but they will be even more different. A small percentage of the genes would come from the mitochondria of the egg used for the procedure. Mitochondria genes affect how cells process energy. So the child would have almost, but not quite, the same genes as its donor. Also, the child would grow in a different uterus. Uterine environment has a large impact on many aspects of fetal development. But most importantly, the child would be born into a different family, have different experiences then its donor. It would be raised by a different culture. Thus, its personality would be completely different, unless the child was specifically raised to be like its donor.

But even that's not all. A concept called "gene expression" applies to clones. Two genetic twins cold have the same gene, but they might express that trait differently, or they might not express it at all. This is because whether and how a trait is expressed depends on interactions among genes and between genes and the environment. Thus, people with the same genes can turn out differently. In other words, every clone is different. The difference may not be obvious, but it is always there. The fact is, children conceived with the aid of cloning technology are just ordinary children. They will bear resemblance to their cell donor, but happens in normal births; children resemble their parents. There is simply one less parent, so the resemblance is stronger.

Also, cloning can be utilized for a variety of medical uses. Most prominently among these is infertility. In vitro fertilization, the method by which so-called "test tube babies" are produced, is a possible solution to infertility. But this isn't a miracle cure for everyone. For women who can't produce eggs or men who can't produce sperm, IVF will not help. To get a good embryo, you need to have good ingredients. But cloning has none of these problems. A cell from anywhere on the body will suffice. If an infertile person can spare a few cells from, say, their arm, they can have a child.

Cloning will also be able to help people who know that they are at high risk of producing children with some birth defect or a genetic disease. Genetic diseases are generally caused in one of two ways. The first is that they occur during meiosis. This type of error causes problems such as Down Syndrome. The second is that the child inherits it from a parent who is a carrier. This is how problems such as Tay Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and hemophilia are formed. Cloning will be make all these diseases and genetic defects extremely rare or impossible. Cloning does not produce a reduction of genetic material, so there is no opportunity for the kinds of problems that cause Down Syndrome to occur. And a child conceived using cloning will not have a genetic disease that his donor didn't have. If the "parent" is a carrier, the child will be a carrier as well.

Cloning can also be used to create embryonic stem cells, which could be used to create tissues and organs for transplant. This is a much safer method than transplanting someone else's organ, because there is little chance the patient's body will reject an organ made of its own cells. Also, this would eliminate the shortage of organs for transplant. This same method could be used to create bone marrow for leukemia victims, islet cells to put in the pancreas of a diabetic, heart or liver tissues to repair damage from heart attacks or hepatitis, or healthy skin grafts for burn victims. Cloning could also be used to create animals that would excrete therapeutic human proteins such as insulin in their milk. This could essentially turn cows into walking drug factories for an endless supply of cheap medicines. Lastly, cloning may even help us find a cure for cancer by teaching us how to reprogram cells.

Finally, in vitro fertilization (or IVF) has already come under all of the arguments that have been thrown out against cloning. When this method was developed about twenty years ago, people thought that it would be unsafe, that the babies would be born with birth defects, that they would be psychologically harmed when they found out about their origin. People were strongly against the idea, thinking it was akin to manufacturing babies in test tubes. It kindled images of Frankenstein and his monster in their minds. There were many movements to outlaw IVF. Some of the leaders of these movements are the same people leading the same movements against cloning today. But the Louise Brown, the first "test tube baby", was born. She was merely an ordinary child, with no defects and no genetic diseases. The movement to outlaw IVF faded away. Twenty years later, people now accept IVF, and it has brought children and happiness to over 150,000 disabled couples. We know now that all the arguments against IVF were incorrect, and the same exact thing will happen with cloning.

In conclusion, cloning is a very useful technique. It can be used to get around infertility, can help with organ transplants, and has many other medical uses. It is a constitutional right. In vitro fertilization had come under fire the exact same way as cloning, and it survived and even flourished. Cloning should not be banned. If it is, the human race as a whole will suffer.
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