Will I See Ewe In The Future?

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So about now just about everyone has heard about cloning. The facts, the myths, the controversy, and the fears, even possibly experiencing them. Worrying about seeing another one of yourself, genetic super soldiers, or the nightmare of the week, herds of clones raised so their body parts can be harvested for their true and genuine double, to extend their life-scary stuff.

Man has been fantasizing about this idea for quite some time now. The 1978 movie. “The Boys From Brazil” came out saying Nazis in Brazil were going to clone a fleet of baby Hitlers, an extreme idea for its time. Especially in comics, the idea of super beings has been around for a while. But, here in reality, there has always been a scientist or military official who dreamed of cloning humans for his own benefit, or a “Mad Scientist” who wanted to take over the world. with “Super Beings.” The man who created the total duplication of an adult creature, the most strived for part of cloning, was thinking along the lines of sheep. lots of sheep. A kind of sheep that would produce the best quality wool, and a lot of it. A sheep made from a tiny single cell of one adult ewe. The man. Dr. lan Wilmut, a Scottish scientist at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland, has figured out how to do this.

Cloning has been around for a while. In 1952, researchers in Pennsylvania successfully cloned a frog. So why the big fuss now? Back then a process called Embryo Twinning was used, literally splitting an embryo in half. Decades later this process was used on sheep and calves. What’s different today is the fact that cloning is not embryonic.

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Embryonic cells are much easier to work with because they are not to the point at which a cell becomes skin, or muscle, or bone, etc.. Embryonic cells are capable of developing into any kind of cell in the body while a mature cell is already, at that point, a specific body part. With an embryo you have the entire set of “directions” for a complete being.

When Dr. Wilmut cloned a sheep, he cloned an adult sheep, not an embryo. The process was fairly simple. First, cells were taken from the udder of a Finn Dorset Ewe and were placed in a culture dish with very low concentrations of nutrients, literally starving it. When a cell does not get its proper amount of nutrients, or is starved, it stops dividing and reproducing itself, a thing all cells do. After the cells stop reproducing and go into a still state, their outer protein and other things surrounding them “shrivel” up and fall off leaving just the DNA.

While this is happening an egg is taken from a Scottish Black Faced Ewe. It is kept alive in a laboratory dish and with a minuscule pipette the nucleus, the eggs DNA is removed, leaving an empty “egg shell” so to speak. Now the egg has no trace of who its owner was, it is an empty cell, an empty case. 

Now, with a tiny pipette, the Finn Dorset cell is placed in the outer membrane of the donated egg cell. Then, a tiny spark of electricity is sent through the egg and cell. Researchers have found that a jolt of electricity does the trick, causing the egg to undergo the same process it normally does after it has been penetrated by a sperm. A surge of calcium and burst of enzyme activity leads the egg on the path to dividing into an embryo. This spark lasts only for a thousandth of a second. After this occurs you would not see a difference at all, but over the next four hours the cell would start to ooze into the egg. Four hours later you would only see ghosts of the former cells in the eggs. Their contents had diffused into the egg and only their outer membranes were left behind, leaving only a shadowy outline. The next day though, you would see a new nucleus. The cells had begun dividing into an embryo. The embryo was then placed into a surrogate mother, to whom the baby sheep would have no relation, which had been given hormones to trick the surrogate mothers body into thinking it was pregnant. The outcome from this process was a little lamb named Dolly.

After the announcement, made on February 22, of Dolly being born (cloned) back in July, Dr. Miassam M. Matalipovawas was trying to clone a cow at the University of Wisconsin’s animal science building on March 1, 1997. After hearing of Wilmut’s success she embarked on the task with determination. For several hours she hunched over a microscope in a windowless room kept at a steady temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a cow’s uterus. Matalipovawas, a petite Russian still learning English, followed the same steps that Wilmut did, only she used a fetal skin cell rather than an udder cell. She repeated the same process 12 times, creating 12 embryo’s. If this is successful then at least one calf will be born in nearly ten months.

In Beaverton, Oregon two Rhesus monkeys were cloned back in August using similar techniques to those used by Wilmut. This development is supposed to help in the research of AIDS, alcoholism, and Depression. This is far more less dramatic than Wilmut’s Dolly because of the fact that in this case, embryos were used in a process called nuclear transfer, rather than Wilmut’s process of using older differentiated cells. But it does mark the first time a species so closely related to humans was cloned. To do this they basically used chromosomes from a primitive monkey embryo, and fusing it with a monkey egg that had been drained of its nuclei. This will make animal testing a lot easier by using mon- keys with the same exact genetic makeup so test results will not vary because of the monkey itself, and possibly even making animal rights activists happy because less animals would be used.

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Now with this new technology there is bound to be scandals or accusations, as with anything. Like in London a Belgian scientist denied accusations made by a London newspaper that his fertility clinic had accidentally made the first human clone, a 4-year-old boy now living in Southern Belgium. The scientist, Dr. Robert Schoysman, head of the Van Helmont Hospital near Brussels said he was “amazed and irritated” by the accusations of the Sunday Times of London newspaper. He said the boy was born by his mother in the process of invitro fertilization, and that he was not even equipped to clone anything.

Now the fear of the loss of your individuality, is probably in the heads of most people, but be not afraid, all that can be cloned is your DNA. Not unless you were cloned at birth without your knowledge, could you be strolling down the street and bump into someone who looks exactly like you at the present moment, possibly your clone in a far-fetched situation, but even your clone would not look exactly like you, because of the difference in age. If someone were to clone you, you would not see a mirror image of yourself in nine months. You might see exactly what you looked like as a newborn, but not at your actual age because we can not accelerate growth to that extent. Even if that was possible, the clone might be in better shape from being nurtured in a lab, or you had a childhood injury that changed your appearance, plus the important role of environment. Smog could have stunted your growth, or sun exposure could have given you freckles, or moles, or even wrinkles.

But the one thing that makes you is your brain. The simple reason why the entire you can’t be cloned is that a brain can’t be cloned. All cells have a kind of built-in set of directions. All tissue is made by certain cells repeating themselves over and over again, except the brain. The brain only is given a rough layout of instructions, so most nerves and cells are thrown in at random, so it cannot be copied. From the moment a baby is born, experience and sensation breaks and rearranges cells, changing who you are. Neglected babies seem to be unintelligent, dull, and sometimes are called by the term “out there,” while loved and nurtured babies have tendency to be more intelligent, happier, more alive due to their experiences as babies. So even if a way to clone a brain was discovered and performed, for a brief instance their might be two identical minds, but then at random neuron No. 20478288 decides to fire in brain 1 and not brain 2, the tiny spasm would send off a cascade that would reshape some circuitry, and there would be yet again two individuals. 

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Many aspects of cloning have many good things to offer to mankind. Imagine needing a heart transplant, so the doctor clones a heart for you. Or all the many rare plants in the rainforest discovered and not, that have such life-saving medicines within them that are being destroyed every day, such as the Taxol plant with its cancer curing abilities, could be cloned from one plant to one hundred. Even endangered species could be cloned to save an entire race, Already plans to make genetically altered animal clones with special proteins or hormones in their milk are going to be used for medicine. Even in sports, Cigar, the legendary horse who had an amazing winning streak, retired to become a stud. Since that isn’t working out his owner is thinking about cloning him. In the Midwest parents of a leukemia child. want the child to be cloned so there would be a match for her much needed and lifesaving bone marrow transplant.

The evil aspects to cloning are probably more daunting, such as terrorists cloning super soldiers that take over the world, or making clones for body parts, or just plain unethical research. People are trying to prevent this by trying to pass laws that would ban cloning or just the moral aspect. President Clinton already put a ban on all government funds for cloning research, and as one midwest senator posed the question; Will the first person to clone a human win the Nobel Prize for peace or be thrown in jail?

Ryan Brown 7th grade Linwood, NJ Youth Mentor

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