Version: v2, Published online: 2020
Retrieved March 22, 2023, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/cloning/v-2
‘Cloning’ is the popular name given to Cell Nuclear Replacement (CNR) (also sometimes referred to as Cell Nuclear Transfer (CNT)).
CNR involves a recipient cell, generally an egg (oocyte), and a donor cell. The nucleus of the donor cell is introduced into the oocyte. With appropriate stimulation the oocyte is induced to develop.
Once the embryo is created, stem cells can be harvested from it for research purposes or for cell therapy (therapeutic cloning). The embryo might also be implanted into a viable womb and developed to term (reproductive cloning). The first mammal to be born by CNR was Dolly the sheep (1996–2003).
CNR may have various potential applications ranging from reproduction to treatment of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries.
Although research on CNR is still relatively in its infancy, CNR (cloning) has attracted people’s attention in a way that few other advances in biomedical research do. To date, human reproductive cloning of an entire genome, as in the case of Dolly, has either been banned or has not been voluntarily undertaken anywhere in the world, so there is no reliable data on safety or efficacy of human reproductive cloning.
However, public debate on whether or not human reproductive cloning would be ethical in principle has unfortunately been influenced more by fiction than science. The horrendous or absurd scenarios pictured in novels and films are sometimes mistakenly believed to be possible, or even likely, outcomes of cloning. Immediately after news of the birth of Dolly, the international community imposed restrictions particularly to human reproductive cloning, which is now virtually everywhere prohibited. Reproductive cloning is considered offensive to human dignity and a threat to the well-being of the child. Against therapeutic cloning objections are also raised. The strongest are that CNR involves the creation and destruction of embryos.
The debate on the moral status of the embryo is ongoing, in bioethics, philosophy, and theology. However, if arguments against the killing of the embryo were to be accepted, then the current legal and social context of most European countries would have to be revised, and abortion and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) made criminal offences. Those who believe that abortion, even just in its therapeutic form, and IVF are acceptable, admit that it may be ethical to destroy an embryo either to save a life or to treat infertility. If this is accepted, it is unclear why it is unacceptable that embryos or embryonic material be used to treat serious and lethal diseases.
Giordano, Simona. Cloning, 2020, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L142-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/cloning/v-2.
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.