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Some experts say it's biologically possible to clone a human

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A popular science-fiction trope, the topic of human cloning remains a very hot topic. There are many scientific hurdles and many ethical questions that must be answered before the mad scientist can go into the lab and come up with a perfect replica of a living person. The question remains, can a human being be cloned? Some experts say - yes! 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Cloning has been around since the 1950s. To date, scientists have cloned dozens of animal species, including mice, cats, sheep, pigs and cows. However, in thee cases, researchers encountered problems that needed to be overcome with trial and error.

"It's a numbers game," Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at the biotech company Advanced Cell Technology says. His company has worked on cell therapies for human diseases, and has cloned animals. Researchers were able to use thousands of eggs with laboratory mice, and conduct many experiments, to work out these problems, Lanza adds.

It's not so simple with primates, Lanza says, as eggs are a very precious resource, and it is not easy to acquire them to conduct experiments.

Researchers, in addition can't simply apply what they've learned from cloning mice or cows to cloning people. Cloning an animal requires that researchers first remove the nucleus of an egg cell. When researchers do this, they also remove proteins that are essential to help cells divide.

This isn't a problem with mice, as the embryo that's ultimately created is able to make these proteins again. But primates aren't able to do this, and researchers think it may be one reason that attempts to clone monkeys have failed.

Cloned animals often have different kinds of genetic abnormalities that can prevent embryo implantation in a uterus, or cause the fetus to spontaneously abort, or the animal to die shortly after birth, Lanza says.

These abnormities are common because cloned embryos have just one parent rather than two, which means that a molecular process known as "imprinting" does not occur properly in cloned embryos.

Problems with imprinting can result in extremely large placentas, which ultimately leads to problems with blood flow for the fetus.

Lanza and colleagues cloned a species of cattle called banteng, and it was born at twice the size of a normal banteng and had to be euthanized, Lanza said.

There is an extremely high rate of death, and the risk of developmental abnormities from cloning makes cloning people unethical. "It's like sending your baby up in a rocket knowing there's a 50-50 chance it's going to blow up. It's grossly unethical," Lanza says.

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