In 2001, scientists from Advanced Cell Technology announced the use of embryo cloning procedure in the advancement of therapeutic cloning. The whole idea of this scientific technology was discovered when scientists inserted a skin cell into a fertilized egg (with all of its genetic material removed), which then soon divided. California became the first state to legalize therapeutic cloning research in 2002, with the UK following the lead to become the first country to offer financial support to scientists conducting such a study.
Withal, many countries do not support therapeutic cloning because of its ideology, where politicians do not even consider the benefits of such technology and how it can help citizens. Particularly, this area of research is banned in several parts of Europe, such as Finland, Germany, Greece and Austria, and in Israel and China. Though other countries, such as Canada, do not completely prohibit therapeutic cloning, they impose very strict rules on it. To decide ourselves whether this technology is an honorable practice or not, let us take a look at its pros and cons.
List of Pros of Therapeutic Cloning
1. It offers a great research potential.
Although this technology aims to create feasible medical treatments, the research that is being conducted into the practice may actually be better than any of the results it would generate. From understanding birth defects better to creating possible treatments for cancer, therapeutic cloning would provide researchers the opportunity to dig deeper into the cellular and genetic levels, so we can better understand human health.
2. It can reduce the possibility of organs being rejected during transplants.
Another ultimate goal of this cloning procedure is to create new organs from the existing cell tissues of a patient, and because these organs are to be created from the individual’s own cells, the risk of organ rejection after the transplant is successfully done would be greatly reduced. And as this technology continues to advance, the level of such a risks is also expected to continue declining.
3. It can help treat serious illnesses.
People who are being diagnosed with serious conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, would be given injections of therapeutically cloned cells to treat the illness immediately. Well, this is supposed to be the reality of therapeutic cloning. Rather than suffering a lifetime of chronic pain or other physical problems, patients would be given the opportunity to find potential cures in possibly just a single visit to their doctors.
4. It eliminates the need for a second-party surgery.
As cells would be developed based on an individual’s unique DNA structure and genetics, a second surgery of a donor to ensure a successful transplant would no longer be needed. Medical treatments would be based on each person, so privacy would ultimately be protected.
5. It takes away the need for other potentially controversial medical procedures, such as xenotransplantation.
Some medical research look at the possibility to incorporate animal cells into the human body as aid for healing, which risks transfer of animal diseases to humans, rejection issues and other problems associated to the practice. But with therapeutic cloning, human cells are being used, so there is no need to assume such a risk.
6. It allows for the study of organ regeneration process.
This cloning technology tries to directly implant cells into a degenerating organ and then allow it to fix itself. This way, scientists will have the opportunity to evaluate how the body would potentially heal itself under appropriate conditions. Moreover, this procedure would even potentially reduce the need for organ transplants to be performed.
List of Cons of Therapeutic Cloning
1. It has a low success rate so far.
As found out by current medical research, the process of therapeutic cloning is not successful as of yet. They saw that cloned cells have wound up developing some serious defects that have the potential to ultimately affect human health in a bad way. Given that cells would just become defective and eventually die, extracting them from embryos would not provide any real benefits.
2. It requires embryos to be used.
The reason why therapeutic cloning uses embryos is because cells that they contain have the ability to grow into certain types of organ or cell, allowing medical researchers to develop medical procedures that bring about substantial life-saving possibilities. However, this also carries ethical concerns, especially the part where human embryos are considered as living creatures from a moral standpoint.
3. It uses adult cells that have limited potential.
One significant problem that comes with using adult cells in cloning is that these cells are known to be limiting, so they are only valuable on a certain level. Under the current state of this research, millions of eggs would need to be studied and researched, but there is just no sufficient supply right now to create such amount of embryos.
4. It lays the foundation for human cloning.
Like any other controversial subject, therapeutic cloning definitely has a “slippery slope” argument to it, but what it has seems to be more profound compared with others. As you can see, critics say that the process of creating cells from damaged embryos could eventually lead researchers to be able to clone a human being directly. Though many scientists support this technology as long as it is used in treating diseases, there are also a handful who highly oppose the use of reproductive cloning in this scientific field.
Therapeutic cloning is indeed a very sensitive subject especially from an ethical standpoint for many people. Literally, it is a matter of life and death that is being discussed. Also, there is the fact that there are only about 400,000 embryos being frozen right now—a number that is seen to be nowhere near the amount required to continue research. On the other hand, the technology is believed by some to be the future of medical science, given that research is allowed to continue. By learning about its pros and cons, we will be able to build our own viable opinions on the subject. So, do you think the pros of therapeutic cloning outweigh its cons?
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.