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Human cloning

Human cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy of a human (not usually referring to monozygotic multiple births), human cell, or human tissue. The ethics of cloning is an extremely controversial issue. The term is generally used to refer to artificial human cloning; human clones in the form of identical twins are commonplace, with their cloning occurring during the natural process of reproduction. There are two commonly discussed types of human cloning: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning involves cloning cells from an adult for use in medicine and is an active area of research, while reproductive cloning would involve making cloned humans. Such reproductive cloning has not been performed and is illegal in many countries. A third type of cloning called replacement cloning is a theoretical possibility, and would be a combination of therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Replacement cloning would entail the replacement of an extensively damaged, failed, or failing body through cloning followed by whole or partial brain transplant.

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[edit] History

Although the possibility of cloning humans has been the subject of speculation for much of the twentieth century, scientists and policy makers began to take the prospect seriously in the 1960s. Nobel Prize winning geneticist Joshua Lederberg advocated for cloning and genetic engineering in a seminal article in the American Naturalist in 1966 and again, the following year, in the Washington Post.[1] He sparked a debate with conservative bioethicist Leon Kass, who wrote at the time that "the programmed reproduction of man will, in fact, dehumanize him." Another Nobel Laureate, James D. Watson, publicized the potential and the perils of cloning in his Atlantic Monthly essay, "Moving Toward the Clonal Man", in 1971.[2]

The technology of cloning mammals, although far from reliable, has reached the point where many scientists are knowledgeable, the literature is readily available, and the implementation of the technology is not very expensive compared to many other scientific processes. For that reason Lewis D. Eigen has argued that human cloning attempts will be made in the next few years and may well have been already begun.[3] The ethical and moral issues cannot wait and should be discussed, debated and guidelines and laws be developed now.

"By waiting until the first clone is among us or about to be born, we complicate the problem immensely and guarantee that we will not be able to have the national and international conversation and debate to arrive at particularly good decisions."[4]

[edit] Notable Cloning Attempts and Claims

  • Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist, claimed in 2004 to have cloned human embryonic stem cells. The scientist in 2006 admitted faking his findings, after questions of impropriety had emerged.[5][6]
  • Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, an American fertility doctor, revealed on 17 January 2004 at a London press conference that he had transferred a freshly-cloned embryo into the 35-year-old woman. On 04 February 2004, it emerged that the attempt had not worked and the woman did not become pregnant.[7][8]

[edit] Ethical implications

Advocates of human therapeutic cloning believe the practice could provide genetically identical cells for inter-regenerative medicine, and tissues and organs for transplantation. Such cells, tissues and organs would neither trigger an immune response nor require the use of Immunosuppressive drugs[9] Both basic research and therapeutic development for serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as improvements in burn treatment and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, are areas that might benefit from such new technology.[10] New York University bioethicist Jacob M. Appel has argued that "children cloned for therapeutic purposes" such as "to donate bone marrow to a sibling with leukemia" might someday be viewed as heroes.[11]

Proponents claim that human reproductive cloning also would produce benefits. Severino Antinori and Panayiotis Zavos hope to create a fertility treatment that allows parents who are both infertile to have children with at least some of their DNA in their offspring.[12]

Some scientists, including Dr. Richard Seed, suggest that human cloning might obviate the human aging process.[13] Dr. Preston Estep has suggested the terms "replacement cloning" to describe the generation of a clone of a previously living person, and "persistence cloning" to describe the production of a cloned body for the purpose of obviating aging, although he maintains that such procedures currently should be considered science fiction[citation needed] and current cloning techniques risk producing a prematurely aged child.[14]

In Aubrey de Grey's proposed SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), one of the considered options to repair the cell depletion related to cellular senescence is to grow replacement tissues from stem cells harvested from a cloned embryo.

[edit] Current law

[edit] United Nations

On December 12, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly began elaborating an international convention against the reproductive cloning of humans. A broad coalition of States, including Spain, Italy, Philippines, the United States, Costa Rica and the Holy See sought to extend the debate to ban all forms of human cloning, noting that, in their view, therapeutic human cloning violates human dignity. Costa Rica proposed the adoption of an international convention to ban all forms of Human Cloning. Unable to reach a consensus on a binding convention, in March 2005 a non-binding United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning calling for the ban of all forms of Human Cloning contrary to human dignity, was finally adopted.[15]

[edit] Australia

Australia had prohibited human cloning,[16] though as of December 2006, a bill legalising therapeutic cloning and the creation of human embryos for stem cell research passed the House of Representatives. Within certain regulatory limits, and subject to the effect of state legislation, therapeutic cloning is now legal in some parts of Australia...

[edit] European Union

The European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine prohibits human cloning in one of its additional protocols, but this protocol has been ratified only by Greece, Spain and Portugal. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union explicitly prohibits reproductive human cloning. The charter is legally binding for the institutions of the European Union under the Treaty of Lisbon.

[edit] United States

In 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007, the United States House of Representatives voted whether to ban all human cloning, both reproductive and therapeutic. Each time, divisions in the Senate over therapeutic cloning prevented either competing proposal (a ban on both forms or reproductive cloning only) from passing. Some American states ban both forms of cloning, while some others outlaw only reproductive cloning.

Current regulations prohibit federal funding for research into human cloning, which effectively prevents such research from occurring in public institutions and private institutions such as universities which receive federal funding.[citation needed] However, there are currently no federal laws in the United States which ban cloning completely, and any such laws would raise difficult Constitutional questions similar to the issues raised by abortion.

[edit] United Kingdom

On January 14, 2001 the British government passed The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001[17] to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 by extending allowable reasons for embryo research to permit research around stem cells and cell nuclear replacement, thus allowing therapeutic cloning. However, on 15 November 2001, a pro-life group won a High Court legal challenge, which struck down the regulation and effectively left all forms of cloning unregulated in the UK. Their hope was that Parliament would fill this gap by passing prohibitive legislation.[18][19] Parliament was quick to pass Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001 which explicitly prohibited reproductive cloning. The remaining gap with regard to therapeutic cloning was closed when the appeals courts reversed the previous decision of the High Court.[20]

The first licence was granted on August 11, 2004 to researchers at the University of Newcastle to allow them to investigate treatments for diabetes, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.[21] The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, a major review of fertility legislation, repealed the 2001 Cloning Act by making amendments of similar effect to the 1990 Act. The 2008 Act also allows experiments on hybrid human-animal embryos.[22]

[edit] In popular culture

Cloning is a recurring theme in contemporary science fiction. Examples include the novels Joshua Son of None (about the cloning of an assassinated U.S. President strongly implied to be John F. Kennedy), The Boys from Brazil (cloning Adolf Hitler) and A Parade of Mirrors and Reflections by Anatoly Kudryavitsky (cloning Yuri Andropov). The Star Wars films, TV series The Clone Wars, as well as the 2000 Arnold Schwarzenegger film The 6th Day and 2005 The Island, directed by Michael Bay, also explore the theme of human cloning. An episode of Star Trek: Enterprise (Similitude) deals with the moral and ethical issues surrounding growing a human clone to harvest tissue for an injured crewman. The film Womb (film) deals with these issues with respect to death of a beloved person in a private relationship.

The famous video game franchise Metal Gear Solid, also revolves around the concept of cloning and genetic alteration. In Margaret Peterson Haddix's novel Double Identity, Bethany is an exact copy of her deceased older sister Elizabeth. The young adult sci-fi novel The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer, also explores the idea of cloning.

In The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982) anime series the Earth is attacked by an alien humanoid race of giants called Zentradi who are reproduced by cloning. This series was adapted years later into the first part of Robotech (1985), where the aliens remained the same but had a different origin.

In the episode The Doctor's Daughter of BBC Television's long-running science fiction series Doctor Who, a tissue sample from The Doctor's arm is used to create a full-grown female soldier (whom The Doctor is both biological mother and father of) ready to fight. Diploid cells in The Doctor's tissue sample were split into Haploid cells, and then combined in a different arrangement and grown at a fast rate, a process which The Doctor calls "Progenation".

Human cloning also gained a foothold in popular culture, starting in the 1970s. Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, David Rorvik's In his Image: The Cloning of a Man, Woody Allen's film Sleeper and The Boys from Brazil all helped to make the public aware of the ethical issues surrounding human cloning.[citation needed]

[edit] Religious objections

The Roman Catholic Church, under the papacy of Benedict XVI, has condemned the practice of human cloning, in the magisterial instruction Dignitas Personae, stating that it represents a "grave offense to the dignity of that person as well as to the fundamental equality of all people".[23]

Sunni Muslims consider human cloning to be forbidden by Islam.[24] The Islamic Fiqh Academy, in its Tenth Conference proceedings, which was convened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the period from June 28, 1997 to July 3, 1997, issued a Fatwä stating that human cloning is haraam (prohibited by the faith).[25][26]

[edit] Bibliography

  • Araujo, Robert John,“The UN Declaration on Human Cloning: a survey and assessment of the debate,” 7 The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 129 - 149 (2007).

[edit] References

  1. ^ Joshua Lederberg. (1966). Experimental Genetics and Human Evolution. The American Naturalist 100, 915, pp. 519-531.
  2. ^ Watson, James. "Moving Toward a Clonal Man: Is This What We Want?" The Atlantic Monthly (1971).
  3. ^ http://scriptamus.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/human-clones-may-be-among-us-now-who-is-ready
  4. ^ Lewis D. Eigen, Human Clones May Be Among Us Now! Who Is Ready?, Scriptamus, 2010, http://scriptamus.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/human-clones-may-be-among-us-now-who-is-ready/
  5. ^ | Disgraced cloning researcher convicted in South Korea
  6. ^ | Disgraced scientist Hwang challenges main accuser in court
  7. ^ | Human clone attempt fails
  8. ^ | Human cloning attempt has failed
  9. ^ Lanza RP, Chung HY, Yoo JJ, et al. (July 2002). "Generation of histocompatible tissues using nuclear transplantation". Nat. Biotechnol. 20 (7): 689–96. doi:10.1038/nbt703. PMID 12089553. 
  10. ^ Cloning Fact Sheet
  11. ^ Appel, JM. New York Times Magazine, December 11, 2005.
  12. ^ Scientists Prepare To Clone a Human; Experiment Aims to Help Infertile. Washington Post, March 10, 2001
  13. ^ Cloning touted as infertility solution, Washington Times, December 11, 1997
  14. ^ http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn3393-dolly-the-sheep-dies-young.html
  15. ^ "Ad Hoc Committee on an International Convention against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings". United Nations. 18 May 2005. http://www.un.org/law/cloning/. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  16. ^ Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 National Health and Medical Research Council, 12 June 2007
  17. ^ Official text of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001 (No. 188) as amended and in force today within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database
  18. ^ SD Pattinson (2006), Medical Law and Ethics, Sweet & Maxwell, ISBN 9780421889507 
  19. ^ "Campaigners win cloning challenge". London: BBC News. 15 November 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1657707.stm. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  20. ^ "Lords uphold cloning law". BBC News Online (London). 13 March 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2846265.stm. 
  21. ^ "HFEA grants the first therapeutic cloning licence for research". HFEA. 11 August 2004. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/en/1048.html. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  22. ^ "MPs support embryology proposals". BBC News Online (London). 23 October 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7682722.stm. 
  23. ^ Washington Post article
  24. ^ http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503544346
  25. ^ http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1237705860017&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar
  26. ^ http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/21582/clone

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