Term Paper: Genetic Engineering Cloning

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Cloning and Human Engineering

The controversy about cloning and human engineering has resulted in heated debate and discussion across a broad spectrum of disciplines and views. While cloning is essentially a scientific and medical discovery, yet the implications and the affects of cloning as a means of human engineering have wide ramifications and implications for society as a whole. The subject of cloning has also affected philosophy, religion and politics. This paper will attempt to provide an overview of cloning and human engineering as well as discuss the various arguments for and against cloning in practice and theory.

Cloning: A brief overview

The main reason for the controversy surrounding cloning is that it challenges many of the moral, ethical and religious norms and views in society. For example, numerous religious and human rights authorities have been shocked by the assertions of an Italian doctor, Severino Antinori, who recently announced that he was in the process of cloning a human baby. (Profile: Dr. Severino Antinori)

There have also been claims that there are ongoing experiments in cloning to replicate human beings; for instance the American religious sect, "Clone Aid," expects the "...'new creation' to arrive through cloning technology." (Bedford-Strohm 2002) This has also meant that cloning technology is possibly widely available and not necessarily supervised by medical authorities.

Cloning has also initiated the possibly of engineering body parts from cells. Stem cell cloning is one of the most exiting and controversial areas in contemporary genetic research. However the reality of cloning has a long history and forms of cloning has been observed and used by scientists and biologists in the past. In fact cloning takes place in nature to a great extent. "Clones frequently occur naturally. Potato plants reproduce vegetatively by growing tubers from which the new plant will grow. Potatoes are clones." (Biology) Cloning activity has also been observed in colonies of bacteria where scientists have observed the replication of identical genetic duplicates. However, the difference is that the genetic knowledge and technology that facilities cloning has now become available to human beings and it is the ramifications of this genetic engineering knowledge that is the cause of concern.

2.1. Stem cell research

Stem cell research has been briefly mentioned above as one of the most contentious areas of modern human engineering. It is contentious because on the one hand it offers almost unbelievable medical and healing opportunities and on the hand it raises many ethical and moral issues.

Stem cells refer to the "... undifferentiated cells that give rise to the many specialized tissues within the human body.Adult stem cells are found in particular parts of the body, some capable of developing into several kinds of specialized cells."

Darnovsky) Embryonic stem cells are those cells found in embryos which have the ability to develop or grow into other types of cells - such as heart of muscle cells, etc. The advances in this technology have opened a new world to medical science where the possibilities for healing are immense. One of the main advantages of this technology is that organs grown for stem cells overcome the problem of rejection by the recipient or host body.. "Embryo cloning has been proposed as a way to solve the immune rejection problem." www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000788547

Darnovsky)

While his technology has the potential to replace body parts that have become diseased or have been injured, it has also opened up a wide range of problematic areas. One of the most sensational and disconcerting is the possible creation of "designer babies" or babies created according to certain specifications. "Embryo cloning is the technology that would make the creation of eugenically engineered 'designer babies' commercially feasible." www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000788547

Darnovsky)

There has therefore been increasing concern from medical and other experts that there is the real possibility that cloning technology may be abused and used for immoral and possibly socially destructive purposes. There is a realization that these technologies can be subject to abuse from many quarters. "Many disability rights activists argue that it is being used in a misguided search for 'perfect' babies, and many feminists voice concern about its use to satisfy 'gender preference'." www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000788547

Darnovsky)

On the other hand the benefits of technologies that arise from stem cell research is something that cannot be easily ignored. There is real proof that genetic engineering may lead to healing and breakthroughs in dealing with diseases such as Parkinson's Disease, which are presently incurable. There is also substantial proof that genetic engineering and cloning can be effective in the treatments of diseases such as diabetes as well as blindness and heart attacks and treatment for strokes. For example, a team at the University of Melbourne's Center for Eye Research Australia has employed the process of limbal stem cell transplant.

Along with a team from Bernard O'Brien Institute of Microsurgery (BOBIM), they replicated the cornea using only one stem cell from the donor. The technique they used can also assist people with alkaline burns, which have damaged the surface of their eyes.

More stem cell research advances)

There are numerous other areas of medical research where the use of stem cell technology has been found to have effective potential. "Researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) at the University of Toronto and Harvard Medical School have found that neural stem cell development during embryogenesis may have a direct effect on abnormal brain development." (More stem cell research advances) field which includes both biological and medical engineering is the field of tissue engineering. In an article entitled Tissue Engineering by Nimia Barrera (2000) the possibility of the creation and replacement of tissues and organs is discussed.

An exciting new strategy, however, is poised to revolutionize the treatment of patients who need new vital structures: the creation of man-made tissues or organs, known as neo-organs. In one scenario, a tissue engineer injects or places a given molecule, such as a growth factor, into a wound or an organ that requires regeneration. These molecules cause the patients own cells to migrate into the wound site, turn into the right type of cell and regenerate the tissue. (Barrera N. 2000)

3. The arguments for and against cloning

One of the most obvious arguments against the new stem cell technology and other genetic technologies is that they may be misused and abused for commercial profit. On the other hand, as has been discussed in the previous section, there are very real and potentially groundbreaking possibilities in genetic engineering for advances in healthcare and the reduction of disease.

However, the potential of human cloning has raised concern in a number of different areas and there are some strong arguments put forward against human engineering and genetic technology. One of the prominent concerns about cloning is the potential that it has to disrupt and even destroy traditional human institutions such as the family. The fear is that cloning could change the interaction and connection between child and parent and consequently change the structure and meaning of parenting and the family. As Kass (1997) states;

the new technologies of human reproduction - babies without sex - and their confounding of normal kin relations - who's the mother: the egg donor, the surrogate who carries and delivers, or the one who rears? - would "undermine the justification and support that biological parenthood gives to the monogamous marriage." (Kass L.R. 1997)

On another but related level there are strong ethical, moral and religious objections to human engineering. From an ethical standpoint the danger is that the very meaning of human identity is threatened by cloning and the creation of human duplicates. The religious objections to cloning are based on the possible reality that man might become the creator of life and not God. In other words, mankind might attempt to usurp the idea of God as the creator of life. This is a threat to the very foundations of most of the world's dominant religions.

This objection also relates to the idea that human life might be seen as just another product - which also challenges the concept of the uniqueness and essential individuality of the human life. "The Vatican said....that claims that a cloned baby had been born were a sign of a "brutal" mentality devoid of ethical considerations. " (Pope Rejects Cloning, 2002)

However those who are in favor of cloning point to the obvious potential that cloning offers from a medical point-of-view as an argument for continued research into its application in society. This in turn is often accompanied by promises of economic gain from cloning.

Cloning, like numerous other biotechnology breakthroughs, offers for-profit organizations the opportunity to "develop" life -- plants, animals, and even humans -- for short-term economic profit. Biotechnology companies are well on their way to commodifying and marketing other living things. For example, private companies have introduced soybeans designed to resist particular human- made pollutants; innovated cows via the use of a recombinant hormone so that they produce more milk

Critique of Cloning Human Beings: Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics [END OF PREVIEW]

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