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Biology 103
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Friend for Life: My Clone and I

Leila Ghaznavi

I have often wondered what I would be like if certain things in my checkered past had not occured. What would I be like if I had been brought up in a stable environment or had gone to a different school, or not walked out the door on a specific day. The what ifs of life that if we actually sat and thought about them all would drive us insane. This is the reason why human cloning interests me so greatly. The ability to clone gives rise to the creation of a rather diabolical plan-- to create a copy of yourself and plot its life course so that everything you wished had happened to you would happen to it and see what kind of person you'd be, or wouldn't be. But would such a plan even be possible to carry out?

Scientists have been experimenting with cloning since 1970 using plants, animal embryos, frogs and toads. But until the birth of "Dolly", the first cloned mammal born in 1997, it was considered impossible to clone humans(1). But the refinement of a technique called nuclear transfer has changed all that (4) This procedure requires that DNA be removed from a somantic cell--not a reproductive cell-- then inserted into an embryo which is then in turn emplanted into a surrogate mother who carries the baby to term (1)(4). However there are problems with the procedure. It took over 277 tries to create Dolly. What is even more problematic is that human cloning would be even more difficult to achieve because human DNA is more complicated, creating a higher potential for error and greater risks. If human cloning was to occur, many scientists fear that his would open the door to diseases and/or malformations in the clone populations as well as possibly in the normal population.

So if one ignores the difficulty in creating a clone, assuming that future technology advances will solve this problem, would my clone be completely identical to me? The answer to this question is no and the reason why can be found in nature by examining identical twins. Identical twins have the exact same genetic code but they are not identical people, even if they are raised in the exact same environment and have similar if not identical life experiences. The entire act of cloning is a process of creating a chronologically younger genetic 'twin' of yourself. In such a case, all the observations and rules of a naturally occuring identical twin pairing would apply (5). For example, my clone would appear completely identical to me but would have different fingerprints (1).

In fact there would be other important biological differences. The mitochondria of the cloned cell would come from the embryo cell and not the somantic cell. If the embryo cell did not come from the person you wish to have a clone made of, came from the surrogate mother, which is actually most likely to occur, (this is possible because the DNA of the embryo is being replaced with the DNA of the somantic cell) the clone would have the mitochondria of its host and not the mitochondria of the person it is copying. This would create a difference that could only be seen under a microscope but an extremely important one (5).

But there are other forseable problems. The question of whether a clone can reproduce by natural methods is not known, the mortality rate for newly born clones of sheeps and cows is extremely high, and the clone babies tend to have an extremely high birth weight, endangering themselves and the mother (2). So even if you could do the nucleus transfer safely and easily my clone probably wouldn't survive infancy. And even if it did survive it still wouldn't be exactly me because of the aforementioned differences.

So its starting to appear that my grand plan isn't very concievable because at this stage cloning is extremely difficult and unreliable. But there's another problem. My clone wouldn't be me, so even if I could somehow send it back in time to live my exact life it wouldn't have that individual essence that is me. It would look like me but it wouldn't be me. It is the twin situation all over. Two people living almost the same lives are not the same people. Cloning does not recreate an individual, only the body of the individual (3). So the fact that my clone would make different choices than me is irrevelant because anyone else would make different choices as well. I wouldn't be watching myself live life over again, I would be watching someone else who happened to look like me living a life that I arranged for it. Because of that no matter what I observe it means nothing because the essence of me, that thing that makes us who we are, is independent of looks and height. Thus it wouldn't be -me- making new choices, it would be some other person making choices, that is a phenomenon you see every day on the street and have no need of a clone to observe. No two people are exactly alike, even if one's a clone.

WWW Sources

1)Human Cloning the Process

2)Cloning Report: Everything you always wanted to know

3) Genetic Encores: The Ethics of Cloning

4) Cloning For Medicine

5) The World After Cloning >

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