Does Cloning Offer Possibilities of Immortality?

Will cloning eventually see immortals walking the earth?  Cloning has been looked at with much promise in human medicine. The ability to regenerate body parts and make exact copies of human beings is an intriguing idea.  The subject of cloning of humans has elicited strong debate with religious and ethical issues pitted against the need to prolong human life.

Dolly the sheep

In 1996, there was exciting news from the University of Edinburgh, that a breakthrough had enabled the cloning of a sheep. The clone was called Dolly. The technique used in cloning Dolly was Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT). This involves transferring the nucleus of an adult cell into the unfertilised egg of another animal whose nucleus has been taken out.

Dolly’s life was closely followed with all vital statistics carefully scrutinised. There was dismay when she died prematurely at the age of five, with some pointing out that cloning presented little hope and was fraught with risks.

Normal lives

Continued research has shown that other sheep that were cloned from the same line with Dolly lead a normal sheep’s life with normal life expectancy. Studies on Nottingham Dollies, as the sheep are called, show they have normal musculoskeletal structure, normal glucose intolerance, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. Their X-ray and MRI scans have no difference from those of normally reproduced sheep.

These findings have kept hope that cloning is vital for human medicine. Stem cell research has attracted massive research as these cells can be used to regenerate entire body organs, which translates to prolonged human life. The question is, ‘could this be done to keep regenerating body parts and keep the body living continuously, hence immortality?’

Ethical issues

Presently, scientists have not perfected harvesting adult stem cells which are the best for reprogramming. They are only found in abundance in developing human embryo. Harvesting stem cells would mean killing off embryos. This is a touchy subject touching on abortion and sanctity of human life at any stage.

Even if the harvesting technique was perfected, the religious community argues this would be playing God, and that immortality was not really intended and could have unknown consequences.

Immortality

Health concerns will soon override religious and ethical concerns in human cloning. It is just a matter of time before human organs grown in the lab are available. From then on it will be a small step to entire humans grown in the lab in the exact copies of their parents. Will this human be a new being in thought and character, or will he/she be  an exact copy of its parent?

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