Is Human Cloning too Close for Comfort

You have to admit that human embryo cloning really is the stuff of science fiction; you know the scenario you get a clone of a person which is created in a day and looks exactly the same as the person he/she was cloned from, but yet in some way’s is totally different. This was the plot of the film ‘The 6th Day’ with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Usually in the type of 1950’s B movie that used this plot the clone is a nasty side of the person cloned and goes on the rampage. I perceive this as a twisted version of the Jekyll and Hyde story being played out in two separate bodies. That is fiction, but could full human cloning ever be a reality that we take for granted on a day to day basis?

Recently the debate has come to the forefront with regards to the benefits of cloning human embryos, if managed properly then the advantages could far outweigh the disadvantages but as with anything else there are catches and issues that must be addressed before anything definite takes place, I will explain further, if a person had an illness such as liver or kidney disease then a new organ could be grown and effectively a transplant could be done without the need for drugs to force the body to accept the organ. The cells from the donor would be an exact match for the recipient as they would be the same body but with one being a copy of the other. It is also possible that the stem cells could be extracted from the embryo and literally injected into the recipient directly into the area of the failure; the stem cells not only reproduce as a healthy cell cluster but could be programmed to wipe out the affected area that is causing the issue in the first place. Perhaps this will assist in the management of tumours for cancer patients and heart attack victims where a cellular patch job could be performed and applied on the heart tissue itself, in theory you could be in and out of hospital in a day.

In fact this would be true for the vast majority of cells in a person’s body that can regenerate. The only exception being teeth that don’t follow the regeneration process, just for clarity with the generation process I don’t mean Doctor Who changing from Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant, I mean cells that split and keep the object, whatever it is, functioning properly and alive when older cells die. So imagine what we could do, we could cure the blind as we would have new retinas and even going so far as new eyes available for transplant. This would even go so far as to affect the food chain as breed of fish that are endangered species could be cloned from embryo’s to re-populate the seas, a good example would be Cod that would benefit from this.

Of course that’s only the tip of the iceberg; imagine cloning an embryo for military purposes. Governments could breed their own super soldier. That is when this starts to get frightening and the dark side starts to come into play. Imagine families wanting a perfect son or daughter free from any potential hereditary illness that either family may be passing on. Going to the hospital and ticking boxes to say that you want a girl, blue eyes and blond hair or even worse ordering on-line. This for me is the true frightening possibility of human embryo cloning and the extent it can go to. The fertilised embryo taken straight out of the womb, cloned with all impurities removed and placed back, ethically does that mean that is the same embryo? Is that child going to grow up the same way, would the original embryo when growing up been treated differently compared to the clone?

This is quite rightly where the questions should be asked and that will come from a number of areas. From religious groups to Government and even charities this will definitely raise a few eyebrows in the medical and pharmaceutical profession as this would not only replace some medications but also mean the current methods in dealing with certain illnesses become totally redundant. From the medical companies that have done research for a new drug and spent a few million pounds over the course of five years in research, there would understandably be a fair amount of backlash against this as a potential money-spinner that currently resides in the form of a pill would cease to be profitable and the new thing to go for would be the patents.
It is this area that the gravity and point of focus would certainly change, from medical companies that lose a piece of the pie with a pill, to medical companies bidding to obtain a license to perform cloning whether in test situation or in real life. This in turn would create its own issues, if we are replacing organs and parts of the body as we have effectively grown “spare parts” then the issue will arise that the length of the human lifespan may increase, so there would need to be strict rules that would need to be enforced to ensure that nothing got out of hand. Yes I know it is easier said than done but this will destabilise the status quo in so many areas that there really is no choice but to step back and hear all opinions no matter how strong they are and what direction there beliefs turn.

One of the big questions is what will happen with the embryos when they have served there purpose. Even though there are answers out there I don’t really think anyone knows for sure. Organisation that campaign against abortion say that this is a form of murder, I can see their point of view and understand the direction that they are coming from but do not fully understand if an embryo should be classified as ‘alive’.
From what I have read I believe that the medical potential of embryo cloning far outweighs the choice of not cloning as the benefits means that the paralysed could walk again which is why the late actor Christopher Reeve was a strong believer that this was a viable option of stem cells research. A hell of a lot of research needs to be done beforehand and there will need to be some form of legislation going through parliament, it’s just a matter of time. As I said at the beginning if it is possible to have this managed properly then the benefits will be enormous and the quality of people’s lives will improve considerably.

To give an example of perception and expectations, in America people are already signing up to be cryogenically frozen when they die, not only in the hope that a cure could be found for the illness that they suffered from, but to also in the hope a new body for them to take can be grown through a human cloning process.

Now let’s get back to reality, this isn’t a science fiction movie and some people would say that with this there is only one law being broken, but when you step back and look at the whole picture you see one thing that breaks the law, not a law of enforcement or legality but the law of nature, and that is a another debate on its own.

The future will be here, whether it is tomorrow or next week. If used properly then the advangtages will be enormous. The trouble is that the issue is brewing and is slowly becoming a hotter and hotter subject to discuss without becoming biased, its’ time is coming because the subject is starting to get far too close for comfort now and very soon the whole subject will be brought at warp speed to everyones attention whether through media or medical breakthroughs, this could be something that one day we may take for granted, but now have no idea of the whole host of problems it can cause.

Thanks for reading and until next time.