Exactly 20 years ago, on the 5th of July 1996, Scottish researchers from the Roslin Institute in Scotland managed to clone an animal successfully for the first time. Since her first day, Dolly was destined to become the most famous sheep in the world. However, to avoid difficult ethical questions related to the public reception of this successful experiment, the team of researchers hired a public relations company to deal with any potential negative impact.
Their fear that the investigation would be accused of lack of morality made the researchers avoid the word “clone” in their entire report about the experiment. To talk about cloning, they referred to it using a more scientific terminology, such as “somatic cell nuclear transfer.” Using a body cell and an egg cell, this technology enables scientists to create a viable embryo.
Despite their precautions, the study was immediately criticized as an immoral attempt to promote human cloning. Even though the experts didn`t want people do divert the discussion from its main purpose, that of acknowledging the benefits of this discovery, most critics raised several ethical questions and warned that this discovery would pave the way to immoral human experimentations.
However, none of these grim predictions was validated by what happened afterward. Dolly showed the world that people should have no fear of scientific progress. Even though the same ethical questions are raised in regards to this practice, its benefits are no longer contested.
SCNT technologies are widely used nowadays for research purposes. Also, many speculate that cloning can be used to create tissues and organs that could save or prolong a patient`s life.
As a reproductive technique, cloning proved to imply many risks for the baby. Following several attempts, most of the babies had a high mortality rate or developed health issues and disorders throughout their lives.
Along with many other ethical questions, this continues to be one of the main reasons for which cloning in humans remains strictly forbidden. However, one of the most recent successes in SCNT research was made by Shoukhrat Mitalipov in 2013 when he managed to transfer genetic material from a non-sperm cell into an immature egg cell. This discovery could be applied for many medical purposes, and there is a growing trend in the scientific world which supports the idea that this technique is safe enough to be used in humans.
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