Stem Cells: Part 4 - Cloning

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To Clone or Not to Clone?

In this final part of the Stem Cells Series, I wanted to go into more detail about the cloning procedures, especially regarding the Stem Cell cloning procedures, as they are special and extremely interesting in their own right.

As I mentioned in Part 3, one of the main advantages to being able to clone a human being is the availability of endless amounts of pluripotent stem cells from which to perform experiments on. Obviously, not everone is of the same mindset as I am, but the sheer volume of possibilities when cloning is factored into the stem cell business is amazing.

How does one actually clone a person? Really, with females, it’s rather simple (if only in the biological sense). An egg is taken from the female’s ovary and placed into a test tube, and through a sophisticated process, the nucleus is removed. The ennucleated egg is then injected with the nucleus of a somatic (or body) cell. This new nucleated egg cell is then shocked to start the replication process - one that will start the same process that would occur if an egg and sperm had met.

The nucleated egg cell will divide, develop, and eventually become a baby with the exact same DNA as the donor female - after all, no other person was involved in the production of this child. This is pretty much the closest a human being will ever come to reproduction by budding.

However, cloning is not a controversial process, it is a controversial idea, and the distinction is very key. As an idea, cloning is dangerous to the extreme Christian right, who believe that each new life comes as a gift from a creator who is ever-present - to them, cloning represents the scientific equivalent of telling God “we can do it without you”. The reality couldn’t be more opposite, and yet Pro-Life advocates continue to suggest that cloning will devalue human life by creating exact replicas of people.

Cloning also would allow embryo research in stem cells to continue unhindered - namely because in-vitro clones could essentially have their stem cells collected in an unlimited fashion, essentially opening up unexplored territory for scientists who are currently working with scraps and pieces of stem cells, or trying to convert Adult cells into stem cells.

Cloning continues to be a controversial topic to this day, as it rocks the fundamental beliefs of many different groups - namely, those who believe in some form of Pro-Life. And while cloning has been the topic of many movies (most recently, The Island), don’t expect to see any clones wandering the streets while governments continue to have their way.

And there you have it, MedSci readers - everything you could ever hope to learn about Stem Cells at the most basic level. If you’re still curious about these amazing little pieces of Biology, I highly recommend Googling “Stem Cells” - there are sites out there with a wealth of information - all you have to do is look.