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Illegal Beings: Human Clones

Disease Prevention and Treatment

Cloning for Medical Purposes

by Gabby

When one thinks of cloning, what comes to mind? Movies such as “Multiplicity” can give the lay person a very distorted image of cloning. In this particular movie, actor Michael Keaton plays a father who cannot handle his crazily busy lifestyle. In an effort to be the perfect father, husband and employee, he has himself cloned fairly easily at a nearby medical center. The three clones each have their own personality: one is sarcastic and bitter, one is sweet and sensitive and one is a half-wit- but all are identical. This cloning process is completely false. At this time, scientists have cloned animals including Rhesus monkeys, mice and probably the biggest breakthrough: sheep. Cloning could mean hope for so many different diseases. The advancement of cloning in a medical laboratory should be encouraged. Cloning could save transplant candidates. According to Larry Reibstein and Gregory Beals, companies such as Alexion Pharmaceutical are already beginning to experiment with ways to grow hearts and kidneys in pigs that will not be rejected in transplants (58). Perhaps another reason to encourage cloning is for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Cloning could give hope to couples unable to have children of their own. By advocating cloning, doctors may find a way to cure or even prevent genetic diseases. Perhaps, though, the most important reason to advance cloning in the laboratory is to treat leukemia’s and cancers. Very possibly, through cloning and genetic engineering, the growth of poorly formed cells could be stopped immediately.

One reason to clone is hope for organ transplants. Currently organ transplantation is considered by some to be a routine process, but the waiting can be tedious, difficult, and nonetheless expensive for the patient while a match is located. The suffering candidate is typically put through a battery of tests and interviews by a physician and a psychiatrist so see if he or she is physically and mentally capable for a transplant. Many factors such as blood type, tissue type, weight and age are all deciding factors for a transplant to avoid rejection of the organ. For instance, a 50 year old woman who weighs 250 pounds with type O positive blood would probably not take well to heart harvested from a 19 year old with the same blood type who weighs only 100 pounds. The organ should be in correct proportion with the persons body weight.

Many transplant candidates die while waiting for an organ, whether it be a heart, lung, kidney or liver. Yes, it is true that thousands of people are saved each year by organ transplantation, yet even more die each year waiting while their organs shut down. “In perhaps the most dramatic example, the American Heart Association reports that only 2,300 of 40,000 Americans who needed a new heart in 1997 got one.” (Mikos and Mooney 2). The new strategy which seems promising is the development of what Dr. David J. Mooney of the University of Michigan and Dr. Antonios G. Mikos of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston call “neo-organs.” (3). In one aspiring procedure, the patient receives cells that have been harvested previously and comprised into 3-dimensional molds of biodegradable polymers, such as those used to make dissolvable sutures. The entire structure would be transplanted into the site where cells replicate and form new tissue.

Simultaneously, the artificial polymers dissolve leaving the “neo-organ”, a natural, formed organ. Applications are already being applied to fabricate skin grafts for wounds, and cartilage, bone and tendons for internal injuries. The possibility of creating more complex organs such as kidneys, livers, bladders and breasts is apparent. The proof can be found in the developing embryo where a small group of cells finds the way to form into a complex being with multiple organs capable of a vast number of functions. Theoretically all scientists have to do is discover the details by which a liver becomes a liver, or a lung a lung. Also, to regenerate other organs, such as a liver, the characteristics of their development must be identified and produced reliably (Mikos and Mooney 5-9).

Presently paralysis has no effective cure. A quite unreliable and still experimental technique that is used, hooks the paraplegic victim up to multiple electrodes and shocks the nerves of the lower extremities to stimulate a jerk. The person may be able to walk, but very awkwardly, and requires much assistance. Perhaps, if cells of the spinal cord and commanding neurons could be cloned in a laboratory and implanted in the paralyzed invalid, the use of the patients limbs could be regained. It is understandable that anyone might be against this procedure because the nervous system is complex and treatment is rarely successful, but more research on cloning could provide hope to those who are wheelchair bound. Patrons of the Human Cloning Foundation (HCF) firmly believe that by continuing experimentation and research, scientists may learn to grow nerves of the spinal cord back again when they are damaged. Famous quadriplegic, former actor, Christopher Reeves, might be able to rise up from his wheelchair and walk once again (Human Cloning Foundation 3). In research centers around the world, technologists have been perfecting innovative grafting techniques that fill spaces and connect the broken circuits of spinal nerves. Operations in the lab appear hopeful allowing European rats to stand and quadriplegic American cats to walk (Zacks 1).

Cysts and degenerative disorders of the spinal cord can also be treated by this cloning technology. Fetal-cell grafts, using the cells of human embryos can terminate these very damaging cysts and end the danger that they pose on neural function. In Stockholm, Sweden at the Karolinska Institute, three patients have undergone the still experimental procedure and in each case, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has shown that the grafted cells grew to fill the gap and live stably within the spinal cord, states neurosurgeon Scott P. Falci (Zacks 3).

Yet another reason to value cloning technology is to give an infertile man or woman the chance to conceive children of their own. With cloning, couples who could not bear children of their own may be able to have children. The current infertility treatments are estimated to be only 10 percent successful. Couples can easily spend thousands of dollars to end up with nothing but pain: physical, emotional and financial. Women who cannot carry children can have a child of their own by implanting a zygote comprised of their egg and their husbands sperm into a surrogate mother (HCF 2-4). Men who cannot fertilize an egg can obtain a donor sperm and re-synthesize the donor sperm with their own DNA. The ending result? In both instances, a healthy child with traits from each parent.

Steen Willadsen and his colleagues: Jacques Cohen and Satiago Munne at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, in one experiment fuse an eight cell embryo with a very immature cow egg. The chromosomes of the embryonic cell are pushed into metaphase. From metaphase, these cells can be “karyotyped” (a sorting and examination of chromosomes) rather rapidly. Remarkably, the embryo failed to show any signs of a chromosomal defect and was implanted in a woman. Approximately nine months afterward a healthy child was delivered. “It takes very few cells, is very effective and takes very little time.” Says Willadsen (Cohen 3). These reports, so far, give a great deal of promise to couples wanting children. Continue...