Cloning, from A Brave New World to Jurassic Park, has been fantasized about in the science fiction world for years. Since Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996, widespread fear has started to give way, as restrictions and regulatory measures have been placed and the process has become better understood. As a result, the world is currently opening up to the potential value of cloning in fields as diverse as in food production and pet resurrection.
Cloning, put simply, is the process of producing genetically identical copies of a biological entity. The first truly successful instance of complex cloning occurred in 1996, with Dolly the sheep. People began utilizing the Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) technique (shown below) in creating Dolly’s clone. The first step of SCNT is to enucleate (remove the genetic information of) the egg of the surrogate mother. The second step is for scientists to fill the enucleated egg with the genetic information of the organism to be cloned (in this case, Dolly the sheep). The final step is to let the embryo grow for approximately 7 days before inserting the embryo into a surrogate mother. From there, development and birth takes place as usual.
Scientists have made large leaps since Dolly was cloned. Earlier this month, Boyalife Group and its partners announced that they are building a cloning factory for cows in the Chinese port of Tianjin, which would result in China being able to better feed its immense population. Cloning cows (as opposed to regularly breeding them) would be beneficial because it would optimize the incidence of favorable traits.
While some companies are now routinely cloning cows to enhance food production, a cloning company called the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation has been cloning dead pets. Dr. Taeyoung Shin, a researcher at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, talks at length about how people can clone their dead dogs, so long as the owners keep living cells of their dogs they want to clone. The cost of this procedure averages $100,000. However, it is important to note that the clone of the pet is not a carbon copy, and is better compared to an identical twin of the deceased original. The value of a cloned pet is that while the dog would not be exactly the same, it could still develop similarly if placed in a similar environment because the cloned dog shares all of its genes with the original.
In today’s world, cloning is no longer whispered about in science fiction, but rather is a fact of life. Our ability to clone promises to potentially aid food supply worldwide and help with the pain of losing a pet. Whether the future of cloning is to benefit society or whether it will introduce us to a new dystopian world, however, is dependent upon the rest of us staying informed of the developments of cloning.