Over twenty years ago, cloning was constantly in the news spotlight. As time went on, the public slowly started to forget about it, but this doesn’t mean the research has stopped.
The concerns regarding the possibility of human cloning were many. Apart from the ethical issues regarding the status of clones, the health of cloned beings was also a concern. Scientists were convinced it was impossible to create a perfectly healthy clone.
The reason for this was the fact that Dolly, the first cloned live being, seemed to ageing much faster than normal. Her cells were deteriorating at an alarming rate, and sadly, she had to be put down in 2003.
The average life-span of a sheep is around 10 to 12 years, while Dolly’s was about seven. By the time she was put down, she was suffering from severe arthritis and had a progressive lung disease.
She had been born on 5 April 1996, and had three mothers. One had provided the DNA, the another the egg, and the third sheep carried the embryo to term.
The birth of Dolly was a scientific miracle. It proved that adult cells can be used to recreate a whole organism. Throughout her relatively short life, Dolly gave birth to six healthy lambs.
Following her death, some scientists speculated that she had been born with the same genetic age as that of the cell that had been used to create her. The donor sheep was six years old, thus Dolly would have six when she was born.
However, the scientists found no evidence of this fact, and a few months back, and article was published that proves that cloned organism do not suffer from premature ageing. It is quite likely Dolly was just unlucky.
Though Dolly tends to take the spotlight when it comes to cloning, there have been dozens of other successful attempts. In fact, there are currently four other sheep cloned form the same cell line as Dolly, who are now living a healthy, happy life. None of them show any signs of premature aging. Daisy, Debbie, Dianna and Denise are now 9 years old.
Cloning technology has also been used to replicate champion horses, and there are now around 25 such cloned horses in existence, which are virtually indistinguishable from their “parents”.
Other successful attempts include animals such as deer, bulls, and pigs. This year, a Korean company called Soaam Biotech boasted that they produced around 500 clones daily.
Scientists are now looking to see how they can use this technology to save endangered species, or even bring back extinct ones. A research center in Spain managed to clone a Pyrenean Ibex in January 2009. The species had been declared extinct 9 years earlier. Unfortunately, the ibex died shortly after birth, due to lung complications.
The debate around the ethical concerns surrounding cloning may have died out, since it was replaced with the issues of stem cell research. It is unlikely countries around the world are going to become more lenient with human cloning in the near future. However, cloning technology may yet prove to have some benefits for mankind.
Image Source: Flickr.