Cloning of humans - what is and definition

Cloning of humans - what is and definition

Cloning - the creation of exact copies of a GENE, cell, or entire organism. Such exact copies occur naturally when a ZYGOTE divides to become identical multiples such as twins or, less commonly, triplets. Manipulated cloning is primarily a research method at present, though scientists use cloning for therapeutic applications in creating RECOMBINANT DNA products such as INSULIN. Insulin was the first human gene cloned (1978) as well as the first genetically engineered product approved for use in the United States (1982). The cloning of entire organisms, such as Dolly the sheep in 1997, though sensational, is extraordinarily challenging. Currently, cloned organisms appear prone to numerous health problems and tend to die prematurely, which somewhat mystifies researchers because natural clones such as identical twins do not experience these challenges. Numerous ethical issues surround the use of entire organism cloning, particularly EMBRYO cloning.

Scientists create gene clones by removing the DNA from a vector such as a bacterium cell and replacing it with the DNA of choice. The bacterium rapidly replicates, creating multiple identical copies of the DNA. Similarly, this process can create identical replicas of cells. Researchers are hopeful that this technology will someday lead to the ability to generate replacement tissues and organs to treat various health conditions that currently rely on therapies such as ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION. This technology further holds promise for treating degenerative conditions such as PARKINSON’S DISEASE and HUNTINGTON’S DISEASE. Cloning is also one method of potential GENE THERAPY.

See also CELL STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION; ETHICAL ISSUES IN GENETICS AND MOLECULAR MEDICINE.

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Genetics and Molecular Medicine

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