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Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 12.3 (2002) 305-323

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Scope Note 41

Bioethics and Cloning, Part I

Susan Cartier Poland and Laura Jane Bishop

This is Part One of a two part Scope Note on Bioethics and Cloning. Part Two will be published in the December 2002 issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal and as a separate reprint.

Contents For Parts 1 And 2

Part 1 Part 2
I. History of the Science I. Ethical Perspectives
II. Historical Commentary II. Religious Perspectives
III. Animal Welfare III. Fiction and Film
IV. Laws and Legal Literature

"Clone" is a collective noun (I, Stewart 1997, p. 771). A collective noun names a group and is composed of individual members, such as "herd" or "flock." Derived from the Greek kl¯on for twig or slip, "clone" was first used in biology to describe the aggregate of asexually produced progeny of an individual, either naturally occurring or man-made; the definition later expanded to mean a group of genetically identical members who originate from a single ancestor. Thus, a clone is a group that results from the process of asexual reproduction.

In nature, cloning occurs either by parthenogenesis (reproduction without fertilization) or by fission (embryo splitting). In a pioneering experiment in 1952, Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King (I, 1952), cancer researchers at the Institute for Cancer Research (today part of the Fox Chase Cancer Center) in Philadelphia, demonstrated on frogs another method of cloning by transplanting nuclei into enucleated cells, a technique called "nuclear transplantation," which John B. Gurdon and colleagues (I, 1958, 1975) used to create clones of frogs.

Then, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, two back-to-back frauds in cloning occurred. First, the cloning of a human described by American science journalist David Rorvik in the 1978 book In His Image was called a hoax by a court in [End Page 305] 1982. Second, the cloning of three mice, announced by German wunderkind Karl Illmensee to scientific circles in 1979 (and to the public in 1981), could not be proven to be true, according to convincing evidence by McGrath and Solter (I) published in 1984.

With their pronouncement that mammalian cloning was impossible, McGrath and Solter essentially stopped cloning research and funding for such biological research. So by the mid-1980s, instead of further investigating cloning, developmental biologists studied embryology related to in vitro fertilization, while molecular biologists studied recombinant DNA under the newly relaxed NIH guidelines. These two strands of scientific investigation came together in the work of Ian Wilmut, who created in vitro embryos using nuclear transplantation to reproduce genetically engineered cattle. Wilmut was seeking a way to increase the successful birth rate when, in the 1990s, he produced identical twin sheep, Megan and Morag, cloned from an embryonic cell, followed by another sheep, Dolly, cloned from an adult cell. The birth of a mammal from an embryo whose genetic material came from an adult cell firmly re-established the possibility of cloning from adults. Prior to Dolly's birth, scientists believed that adult cells lost the ability to dedifferentiate—i.e., to become unspecialized—and so could not direct the development of an embryo through to birth.

The 1997 announcement of Dolly's birth initiated the present widespread discussion of cloning. Because of its potentially vast applications across human health, medicine, agriculture, and business/economics, cloning raises a host of issues including those concerning: genetics and genetic engineering, patenting, animal rights and/or animal welfare (especially for transgenic, research, or cloned animals), organ transplantation, reproduction, eugenics, pharmacology (drug production using transgenic animals), research practices, informed consent, stem cell research, women's rights, children's rights, parental rights and responsibilities, and theology and philosophy. It fosters questions about the meaning and purpose of life, the limits of human powers to intervene in research and therapy, and what it means to be human or animal. In addition, environmentalists and organic farmers raise concerns about the effect of novel animals and plants on the environment, while nutritionists and the lay public wonder...


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