Is Cloning 100 percent Possible?
Where are we post-Dolly the sheep?
is 100% accuracy possible? is 100% accursssy posxxilnm!'
This really is the subject du jour, and the subject of the day.
Where are we post-Dolly the worlds first genetically
How wed like to know how Dolly (I) got along with Dolly (II
the return of the killer Dolly). What were the psychological
implications for the ovine template of a younger, prettier, more
Could it be that the world of meeting-ones-own-clone is not
unlike the world of the Hollywood actress? As is clear from even
a cursory glance at the history of cinema, actors can have a long
and fruitful career: child actor to male lead to slightly older
male lead to character actor. Actresses, on the other hand, seem
to be marginalised with appearances only when young, vibrant and
beautiful; and before they hit the age of 40 they are generally
left festering in a seething cauldron of resentment, hatred and
jealousy toward the next generation of the gorgeous. Was that how
it was for Dolly?
Once a happy-go-lucky lamb, full of tender promise, graduating to stardom
in the world in the murky world of genetics, then superseded by, horror
of horrors, herself!
Imagine the damage that that could do to the already fragile thespian
ego. Unfortunately, this couldnt have happened to Dolly because
she was cloned from frozen cells (the Dolly mixture); her identical
twin being already deceased. Plus, sheep are very poor actors.
Yet, there is something fundamentally gruesome about the idea of cloning.
Perhaps youve read the book that explores the possibility of the
rich having a secret stash of idiot-human clones who provide a ready store
of spare parts for the over-adventurous skier or skydiver. Surgically
produced and then maimed alter egos with no education, memory or life
of their own, but kept in a state of optimum physical health to be called
upon like a branch of Kwik-Fit when things go wrong.
Having seen pictures of a mouse with a human ear on its back this does
not seem so far fetched. What next? A giraffe with human noses all the
way up its neck? (My profit is in volume).
The growing of healthy organs for a library of transplantable bits may
be a powerful argument for cloning. Ghastly experiments and mutations
may be an argument against. The moral arguments are, of course, messy
and so are the processes so perhaps Id best avoid
them by burying my genetically enhanced Ostrichs head in the sand.
So from where did this Prometheus-like idea of the recreation of organs
and/or whole creatures stem?
Apparently it all started with frogs in the 1970s amphibians, not
French people. It was discovered that certain cells from the stomach lining
could be propagated to create autonomous creatures, but only up to tadpole
stage. For a while it seemed that there was something special about frogs
because cells for mammals could sometimes be induced to divide a few times
but didnt differentiate properly the variety of cells for
different parts of an animals body couldnt be formed. In the
1980's some of these constraints were overcome, leading to Dolly. Recently
there have been reports of embryos cloned from a rhesus monkey, which
is a significant development in cloning technology as it involves primates
even more recently it has been reported that it is possible to
clone a human being.
So, what of the human angle? Clearly work in this area has already been
going on for some time, but researchers would have to get a considerable
number of women willing to donate oocytes (dont ask) for nuclear
transfer and the use of an accommodating uterus to bring a clone to term.
The idea of an exact copy taking over someones life, though, is
entirely fanciful. As is clear from the case of Dolly, the clone would
still need a normal gestation and growth period, so already there would
be an age differential. This could be overcome by cloning a baby, of course,
or even the embryo itself, but that wouldnt help unless the two
were brought up in exactly the same way, exposed to the same mental, emotional
and physical experiences and, in short, lived together. This is what happens
to identical twins - which are classified as clones and are often almost
indistinguishable - but as a tool of espionage its rather useless.
Then theres copyright.
Imagine a forty-year-old man who plans for the future. Hes lonely,
but he can provide warmth and affection for his old age. He buys a genetic
sample from a trader, its illegal but, hey, he has money. His contact
has got an envelope as licked by Cameron Diaz, his pet psychologist has
a method of imprinting the lovely clone onto its (her) wealthy benefactor.
By the time hes in his late fifties he can settle down with the
fawning girl of his dreams
Another fairly repulsive thought
.unless youre forty and lonely.
Cant be done? Interestingly, studies of identical twins show that
environment plays a big part in the intelligence, mental acuity and emotional
maturity of a subject. So, theoretically, you could breed a desirable
physical specimen and dictate, in a limited way, aspects of its personality.
And so celebrities and the naturally gorgeous take care to copyright their
reproducible genetic material. Soon well get so we wont want
to brush our teeth for fear of leaving behind a viable genetic specimen.
Or wash, cut our hair, trim our nails or leave the house.
So, rather than the Internet, its cloning that will produce an entire
race of filthy, antisocial, hermits.
© Brian Runciman November 2002
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