Cloning Ban

Because of recent developments in the area of cloning, Congress is considering passing a legal ban on any cloning research. Up to this point in time, there's been a ban in place prohibiting federally funded researchers from pursuing human cloning. But that ban didn't prevent privately funded companies from pursuing the idea, which is exactly what happened. In December of 2001, Advanced Cell Technologies published results claiming to be the first company to successfully clone a human embryo. The company is adamant though about their goal and distinguishing between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning.

ACT's goal was not to develop a human baby, but to develop stem cells for therapeutic reasons. Here's a simplified version of therapeutic cloning. An egg is donated by a woman and the egg's genetic material is removed. Genetic material from another cell is inserted into the egg. The egg is exposed to a mixture of chemicals that "activate" the egg, and growth begins. By the fourth or fifth day of growth, a ball of approximately 100 cells, called a blastocyst, has formed. Inside this blastocyst is a core of cells called stem cells. These important cells can be removed and cultured to grow into a wide variety of different types of cells like nerve cells, cardiac cells, or blood cells. These specialized cells can then, theoretically, be used to treat diseases.

The goal of reproductive cloning is not to grow cells to treat disease, but to create a human embryo that will, hopefully, grow into a fetus. Both goals have many emotional, ethical, and religious questions attached. As the technology races forward, the legal system is struggling to catch up. Is there enough difference between the two goals to allow one and not the other?

Visit Scientific American online. This is a good link to understand the difference between therapeutic and reproductive cloning approaches.

Explore More: Genetic Engineering
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