Cloning is the scientific method of creating a genetic copy of an organism which could be a human being, plant, animal, or micro-organism. The most extensive use of the technology in cloning has been permissible at the level of micro-organisms, in creating copies of genes whose products could be used for its therapeutic value or for selection of specific traits or characters among organisms. The ethical concern of this methodology has restricted its wide applications, limiting its use in humans.
As the term suggests, human cloning is the artificial method adopted for production of a genetically identical human being, which involves the creation of cells and tissues of the human body. There are two strategies implemented for human cloning; therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning is a widely accepted technology finding its application in medicines and organ transplantation, also a promising area of research in the field of biological sciences. However, reproductive cloning involves the production of an entire human being using artificial laboratory-based methods and is not limited to the creation of specific cells or tissues.
Certain aspects of human cloning have been associated with an interference with the creation of different forms of life by artificial means, thereby, violating the existing laws of nature. These concerns raised on the grounds of ethical issues are a major setback to the vast possibilities of scientific research that human cloning could unfold. There are multiple studies being undertaken globally, which cannot be implemented in the laboratory and thereby, cannot be medically practiced for such reasons.
Therapeutic cloning has introduced possible ways of studying the development of organisms from a single cell stage into completely functional organs and tissues. This has also helped in analyzing the defects at the level of genes which have been attributed to the clinical manifestation of several developmental disorders and diseases. Further, therapeutic cloning has paved the path for research in identifying therapeutic targets and undertaking studies to discover drugs and medications specific to these targets. The potential of therapeutic cloning has been further diversified by exploring its applications in regenerative medicine ie. to create organs or tissues which could further be used for transplantation. Stem cell therapy has been effectively implemented in bone marrow transplantation. However, the results would have been better, if this clinical procedure could be extended to the treatment of conditions affecting various other organs.
Regenerative medicine with its promising potential is though not clinically implemented for its ethical issues, it is a widely researched domain of study. Ongoing research in this area has shown the potential of stem cell therapy in curing diseases affecting the heart and spinal cord. If the scope for implementing stem cell therapy can be further widened, this technique could be further used in creating the vital organs or specific tissues for the purpose of performing organ transplantation.
The major challenge confronting patients seeking organ transplantation is the lack of sufficient organs for donation. Most of the patients succumb to the adversities of their health condition during the course of this long wait for transplantation and lose their lives. For many others who manage to overcome this challenge, are at the receiving end of risks of transplant rejection. Here the benefit of regenerative medicine comes to play where production of vital organs and tissues in the laboratory could solve the problems concerning the availability of organs for transplant. Also, research has indicated a lesser propensity of transplant rejection if it is autologous, ie. if the transplanted organ is genetically identical to that of the patient.
Many scientists have expressed their support in favor of therapeutic cloning which could achieve successful results for the creation of whole organs or tissues specifically among patients who cannot receive organ transplantation at the appropriate time but urgently require treatment. They believe that the various possible causes of organ rejection in spite of the use of immunosuppressive drugs or factors such as aging, which affects organ function can be completely nullified by this technology. Another basis for their support of reproductive cloning is attributed to the adoption of artificial reproductive techniques in producing babies in case a couple fails to do so by natural means.
However, there have been many ethical issues raised against these techniques by completely ignoring the various benefits that these procedures could have for an advent in scientific research. Most of these concerns are governed by religious beliefs and ideologies, which does not consider human cloning to be sound or safe. In many cases, human cloning has been viewed as an abuse of humanity by creating life artificially against the laws of nature. Some opposition has been directed towards the possibility that cloned individuals could not be socially accepted.
It is true that human cloning or cloning of organs could pose a few threats to the society. In my opinion, the biggest threat to human cloning lies in restricting our own evolution by preventing any genetic variations to be introduced, since we are bent towards creating individuals with the same genetic identity as us. Secondly, the possibility of illicit cloning of an individual by using certain basic biological materials such as hair, nails etc. could be a serious threat to our identity. This could further be related to the creation of a doppelganger whose intentions may not be correct.
Similarly, other than the wide applications of therapeutic and reproductive cloning, human cloning could be implemented in many such procedures which may not have been possible in nature ideally. To begin with, the idea of achieving immortality can be substantiated. By creating your own copy, you could live through several generations altogether. Next, the possibility of reviving a dead person who might have had an untimely death due to an accident or clinical condition could be brought back to life by creating his clone. Also, introducing improved characters could help generate a living human with the desired traits. By studying your clone, personality studies can be undertaken better to analyze the differences between the effect of social environment on you and your genetic copy.
Human cloning has been associated with various controversies mostly driven by secular and ethical concerns. However, the importance of this procedure in clinical research is multifaceted and these issues raised obstruct the path towards further medical advances. Even if some of the issues governing human cloning may be completely justified, those restrictions imposed on therapeutic cloning on the grounds of religion and immorality should at least be eliminated so that scientific progress is not hindered.