Cloning is one of the most fascinating and debated topics in modern biology. On January 24, 2018, Chinese scientists successfully cloned primates for the first time in a way that was used in the experiment with the famous Dolly the sheep. We tell you what is known about this unusual method today.
What is human cloning?
Human cloning is a predictable methodology consisting in the creation of an embryo and the subsequent cultivation of people from the embryo with the genotype of a particular individual, now existing or pre-existing.
The terms clone, cloning were originally used in microbiology and breeding, then in genetics, due to the success of which they came into general use. As of 2016, there is no documented evidence that anyone has managed to create a human clone.
The most successful of the methods for cloning higher animals was the “nuclear transfer” method. It was he who was used to clone Dolly the sheep in Scotland, which lived for six and a half years and left behind 6 lambs.
However, after some time, the Independent published a refutation of this experiment with reference to Nature Genetics, which were among the first to report the successful cloning of a sheep.
In fact, Dolly the sheep had the genome of two mothers, which contradicts the definition of cloning, she also had a highly developed Hayflick Limit, which is associated with her relatively short life.
The so-called technology of cleavage of the embryo, although it should give genetically identical individuals to each other, cannot ensure their identity with the “parent” organism, and therefore cloning technology in the exact sense of the word is not and is not considered as a possible option.
Approaches to human cloning
Human reproductive cloning
Reproductive cloning is faced with many ethical, religious, legal problems that today still do not have an obvious solution. In many states, work on reproductive cloning is prohibited at the legislative level.
Therapeutic human cloning
Therapeutic human cloning – assumes that the development of the embryo is stopped at an early stage, and the embryo itself is used as a product to obtain stem cells.
Legislators in many countries fear that legalizing therapeutic cloning will lead to its transition to reproductive cloning. However, in some countries, therapeutic cloning is allowed.
Contrary to popular belief, a clone, as a rule, is not a complete copy of the original, since only the genotype is copied during cloning, and the phenotype is not copied.
Moreover, even when developing under the same conditions, the cloned organisms will not be completely identical, since there are random deviations in development. This is proved by the example of natural human clones – monozygotic twins, which usually develop in very similar conditions.
Parents and friends can tell them apart by the location of their moles, slight differences in facial features, voice, and other signs. They do not have identical branching of blood vessels, and their papillary lines are also far from completely identical.
Although the concordance of many traits (including those related to intelligence and character traits) in monozygotic twins is usually much higher than in dizygotic twins, it is far from always one hundred percent.
Obstacles to cloning
Technological difficulties and limitations
The most fundamental limitation is the impossibility of repetition of consciousness, which means that we cannot talk about the complete identity of individuals, as shown in some movies, but only about conditional identity, the measure and border of which is still subject to research, but identity is taken as a basis for support. identical twins.
The impossibility to achieve one hundred percent purity of the experiment causes some non-identity of the clones, for this reason the practical value of cloning decreases.
Concerns are raised by issues such as the high rate of cloning failures and the associated potential for inferior people. As well as questions of paternity, motherhood, inheritance, marriage and many others.
Ethical and religious aspect
From the point of view of the main world religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism), human cloning is either a problematic act, or an act that goes beyond the doctrine and requires theologians to clearly justify one or another position of religious hierarchs.
The key point that causes the most rejection is the goal of cloning – artificially creating life in an unnatural way, which is an attempt to remake the mechanisms, in terms of religion, created by God.
Also, an important negative point is the creation of a person only for immediate killing during therapeutic cloning, and it is almost inevitable with modern methods to create several identical clones at once (as in IVF), which are almost always killed.
The point of view of some Buddhists was expressed by the XIV Dalai Lama: as for cloning, then, as a scientific experiment, it makes sense if it will benefit a specific person, but if it is used all the time, there is nothing good in it.
The issues of biological safety of human cloning are discussed, in particular, the long-term unpredictability of genetic changes.
Why do many people think that cloning should be banned?
As Konstantin Severinov, Doctor of Biology and Professor at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and Rutgers University, explained to Meduza,
The cloning of farm animals is not dangerous, but with the appropriate development of technology, it is convenient and profitable. The problem arises when you start thinking about human cloning.
It’s simple with an animal: cloned, raised, ate, for example, a steak, and you can be sure that its quality will be the same for decades. After all, we, as a rule, do not care about the question of whether the cow that became the source of the steak was a person.
We perceive people as individuals, individuals. Personality is formed not only by genetics, but also by upbringing, time and place in which a person was born and formed, various random reasons and encounters and other factors.
Therefore, human clones will not be the same personalities (for example, identical twins look alike in appearance, but, of course, are different people with their own lives, addictions, different dates, places and causes of death).
Therefore, as long as there are no government regimes in which people can be used for conditional steaks, cloning people is not dangerous. It is dangerous if the emergence of such regimes becomes possible.
Human cloning legislation
These prohibitions, however, do not mean the intentions of the legislators of the aforementioned states to refrain from using human cloning in the future, after a detailed study of the molecular mechanisms of interaction between the cytoplasm of the recipient oocyte and the nucleus of the somatic donor cell, as well as the improvement of the cloning technique itself.
Currently, the process of criminalization of human cloning is actively developing in the world. In particular, such structures are included in the new criminal codes of Spain 1995, El Salvador 1997, Colombia 2000, Estonia 2001, Mexico (federal district) 2002, Moldova 2002, Romania 2004. In Slovenia the corresponding amendment to the Criminal Code was made in 2002, in Slovakia – in 2003.
In France, amendments to the Penal Code providing for liability for cloning were introduced in accordance with the Bioethics Act of August 6, 2004.
In some countries (Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, Japan), cloning is criminalized by special laws. For example, the Federal Law of the Federal Republic of Germany on the Protection of Embryos in 1990 makes it a crime to create an embryo that is genetically identical to another embryo, derived from a living or dead person.
Human cloning in Russia
Although Russia does not participate in the aforementioned Convention and Protocol, it did not remain aloof from global trends, responding to the challenge of the time with the adoption of the Federal Law “On the Temporary Ban on Cloned