Cloned Geniuses Speak
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In , scientists at Oregon Health and Science University were the first to use cloning techniques to successfully create human embryonic stem cells. The donor DNA came from an 8-month-old with a rare genetic disease. You might have seen the Jurassic Park movies. In the original feature film, based on the Michael Crichton novel, scientists use DNA preserved for tens of millions of years to clone dinosaurs. They run into trouble, however, when they realize that the cloned creatures were smarter and fiercer than expected. Could we really clone dinosaurs?
In theory? You would need: A well-preserved source of DNA from the extinct dinosaur, and A closely related species, currently living, that could serve as an egg donor and surrogate mother. It's extremely unlikely that dinosaur DNA could survive undamaged for such a long time. However, scientists have been working to clone species that became extinct more recently, using DNA from well-preserved tissue samples. A number of projects are underway to clone extinct species, including the wooly mammoth. In , scientists had their first near-success resurrecting an extinct animal.
Using goats as egg donors and surrogates, they made several clones of a wild mountain goat called the bucardo—but the longest-surviving clone died soon after birth.
Cloned Geniuses Speak
Even if the effort eventually succeeds, the only frozen tissue sample comes from a female, so it will only produce female clones. However, scientists speculate they may beable to remove one X chromosome and add a Y chromosome from a related goat species to make a male. Cloning endangered species is much easier, mainly because the surviving animals can donate healthy, living cells. In fact, several wild species have been cloned already, including two relatives of cattle called the guar and the banteng, mouflon sheep, deer, bison, and coyotes.
However, some experts are skeptical that cloning can help a species recover. One big challenge endangered species face is the loss of genetic diversity, and cloning does nothing to address this problem. When a species has high genetic diversity, there is a better chance that some individuals would have genetic variations that could help them survive an environmental challenge such as an infectious disease. Cloning also does not address the problems that put the species in danger in the first place, such as habitat destruction and hunting. But cloning may be one more tool that conservation scientists can add to their toolbox.
Left: the alpine ibex, a close cousin of the Bucardo. Right: the last remaining Bucardo with the research team before her eventual death. She was blindfolded to shield her eyes from the photographer's flash.
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Image courtesy of Advanced Cell Technology. If you really wanted to, and if you had enough money, you could clone your beloved family cat. At least one biotechnology company in the United States has offered cat cloning services for the privileged and bereaved. But don't assume that your cloned kitty will be exactly the same as the one you know and love.
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An individual is a product of more than its genes—the environment plays an important role in shaping personality and many other traits. On December 22, , a kitten named CC made history as the first cat—and the first domestic pet—ever to be cloned. CC and Rainbow, the donor of CC's genetic material, are pictured at the right. But do you notice something odd about this picture? If CC is a clone of Rainbow—an exact genetic copy—then why are they different colors?
The answer lies in the X chromosome.
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In cats, a gene that helps determine coat color resides on this chromosome. Both CC and Rainbow, being females, have two X chromosomes. Males have one X and one Y chromosome. Since the two cats have the exact same X chromosomes, they have the same two coat color genes, one specifying black and the other specifying orange.
Very early in her development, each of Rainbow's cells "turned off" oneentire X chromosome, thereby turning off either the black or the orange color gene. This process, called X-inactivation, happens normally in females, in order to prevent them from having twice as much X-chromosome activity as males. It also happens randomly, meaning that different cells turn off different X chromosomes.
So like all female mammals, Rainbow developed as a mosaic. Each cell that underwent X-inactivation gave rise to a patch of cells that had oneor the other coat color gene inactivated. Some patches specified black,other patches specified orange, and still others specified white, due to more complex genetic events. This is how all calico cats, like Rainbow, get their markings. CC looks different because she was made from a somatic cell from Rainbow in which the X-chromosome with the orange gene had been inactivated; only the black gene was active.
What's interesting is that, as CC developed, her cells did not change the inactivation pattern. Therefore, unlike Rainbow, CC developed without any cells that specified orange coat color. The result is CC's black and white tiger-tabby coat. Rainbow and CC are living proof that a clone will not look exactly like the donor of its genetic material.
Programs are underway to clone agricultural animals, such as cattle and pigs, that are efficient producers of high-quality milk or meat. A group of researchers at Utah State University led by Dr. Their aim isn't to produce animals for consumption—cloning is far more labor-intensive and expensive than conventional breeding methods. Instead, they want to use these animals as breeding stock. The important thing to know about beef cattle is that the quality and yield of their meat can be assessed only after they are slaughtered.
And male animals are routinely neutered when they're a few days old. That is, their testes are removed, so they are unable to make sperm. View Full Site. Need some help? Or, login via social media:. Sign up to email updates. Humanists seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. They use reason, experience and respect for others when thinking about moral issues, not obedience to dogmatic rules. When deciding whether something is right or wrong, humanists consider the evidence and the probable effects of choices. Embryo research is a subject that demonstrates the difficulties of rigid unchanging rules in moral decision making.
Medical science has advanced to the point where we have options that were unthinkable even a few years ago and where old rules cannot cope with new facts.
But the use of human embryos raises ethical questions and provokes much opposition, particularly from religious and anti-abortion groups, who use similar arguments to those used to oppose contraception and abortion to object to the exploitation of a living human embryo. For humanists the most important consideration in ethical questions on life and death is the quality of life of the individual person.
In the case of embryo research, humanists would focus on two issues: whether an embryo is indeed a person, and whether the research on and subsequent use of embryo cells would do more good than harm.