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Mass Cloning

Medical Ethics 2009 Cloning

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#1 Niki Jane

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 12:28 AM

In my sociology class this semester, we're covering an interesting module which raised a few really good questions in my last class and I thought it would make a really good topic for my first post in THC. The module was called "Cloning in the Coming Biotech Society".

As cloning becomes less something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie and more something we see on CNN from time to time, it makes you think about what's coming. Now that stem cells and other biological matter carrying our DNA can be frozen and kept for a hefty price in "bank" of sorts, would it be too far of a stretch to think that the time might be coming when we could walk into one of these banks and bring back a loved one who has passed away, or could we even duplicate ourselves?

Consider this: your four year old daughter has drowned, and you can't get over your sorrow. You go to the regional clinic where you have stored DNA from all of your immediate family members. You pay a nice chunk of change and a surrogate mother gives birth to your dead daughter as a newborn.

Or, a couple can't have children and testing shows that the husband is sterile. The wife agrees to have her husband's genetic material implanted into one of her eggs. Would this woman, in effect, be raising her husband as a little boy?

Or, suppose that you love your mother dearly and she is dying. With her permission, you decide to clone her. Who is this clone? Would you be rearing your own mother? And what if you gave birth to your OWN clone? Would it be your daughter or your sister?


Discuss.

#2 tvnut

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:02 AM

My take on it is a nature-nurture debate: Does having the same genetic material equal the same person? I would say not as evident by the development of identical twins who start out with the same genetic material but can look and do behave differently. Cloning your mom might make a person who looks similar to your mom but will not be the same person that told you your bedtime stories when you were young.

#3 Annibal

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:31 AM

I say no. A person is a sum of everything. I am only me because of everything I've experienced INCLUDING my genetic makeup. I am a both nature and nurture person in nearly equal parts.

Its the same reason I don't see teleporting as being viable. Can it really exactly duplicate me as I am? I am a certain balance of hormones, a certain grouping of memories, certain neural responses.

I would consider these clones as genetic twins, not the same person.

Anyone got some cloning research or articles?

I have a few just from minor looking:

http://www.ucs.mun.c...;OtherNRTs.html

http://library.think...nchLabel=Ethics

http://plato.stanfor...ntries/cloning/

http://www.publicpol...ort/cloning.htm
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#4 Niki Jane

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:41 AM

What about the ethical standards? In the last few situations I gave, they are bringing back a person they had no part in the raising and shaping of this person. But what about the four year old daughter? You would be raising her just like you would raise your original daughter had she not died. Is bringing her back, so to speak ethical? Why or why not?

#5 Orpheus

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 02:58 AM

Ethical, yes -- but misguided. you will not be bringing her back. You will be creating her sibling

We say that siblings share 50% of their genes, but the situation is much more complicated. For one thing they share  ALL the genes that their parents share (including the critical genes like histones that vary by just a few base pairs  between peas, cows and humans). On top of that, they can share up to 100% of the genes where their parents differ -- or they may share 0%. it's the luck of the draw. True monozygotic twins, raised together, are as close to perfect clones as we'll come for centuries - -they are actually the same embryo, plit into two embryos at such an early age that each half can develop into a separate fetus, then raised together in the same house, by the same parents at the same time. Whatever differences there are between MZ twins would also be found between a deceased child and its clone -- plus many more (Heraclitus said, 26000 years ago "you can never step in the same river twice" (because the water has flowed on, mixed and tumbled); I doubt you can step in the same family twice, especially after it has been racked by the death of a child.

There are dozens of complicated molecular biology reasons why a clone will not be absolutely identical to the original I'll skip those, because I was once a molecular biologist, who would turn this into a tedious EtU topic. I will only note a few classes: maternal effects which are, crudely, the effect of a given womb at a given time on the expression and selection of certain genes in the genome (I'm not aware of human studies, which are problematic for obvious reasons, but these were well studied and documented in other animals when I was trained, about 20 years ago); random assortment (like the embryonic reassortment of subunits in the "immunoglobin superfamily" which obviously controls your antibodies but also influences things like neuronal development and what mating partners you find most appealing); and  mosaicism (e.g. a normal woman has two Y chromosomes, but one of them is curled up and inactivated as a "Barr body" -- but the Barr body may not be the same Y-chromosome in all her tissues; various molecular other switches, or even the entire genome, may differ in different tissues in the same person -- basic genetics is a gross simplification of the complexities of real-world pregnancies). If you clone an adult, you get issues like telomeric shortening (the loss of repeating segments at the end of a chromosome with age -- a clone can only inherit as many as the gene donor still had, and this effect was seen in Dolly, the first cloned sheep)

In short strokes: Sci-fi cloning will remain Sci-fi for decades or centuries after human cloning is safe, reliable and practical. These ethical issues, while very interesting, are really more suited to transporter accidents (and that's actually how they are discussed in bioethics circles -- a subject I foolishly took a degree in in my youth) The real issue is "identity" not "genotype": MZ twins may share a genotype but they don't share an identity, while both victims of a transporter accident may be equally entitled to claim "the original" identity.

Developmental effects --easier to see-- are even more numerous, and indirectly well-documented: medical research has conducted many, many "twin studies", comparing monozygotic twins (aka "identical' twins from a single sperm fertilizing a single egg) and dizygotic twins (ala 'fraternal' twins, from two separate eggs, fertilized by two separate sperm, but during the same menstrual cycle -- no more closely related, genetically, than any other siblings). While the media strongly tends to emphasize the often truly eerie similarities between monozygotic twins "separated at birth", but twin studies actually show more differences than you might expect: one monozygotic twin may develop diabetes, while the other doesn't; one may strongly tend to the sciences, while the other may strongly tend to some more useful pursuit; one may have Ciliary Immotile Syndrome and die early of multiple organ effects while the other may be robustly healthy well into old age; one may be cheery and the other resentful -- etc. Many of these are mysteries or some unknown combination of subltle environmental effects, while others like Kartagener's syndrome ('situs inversus' or mirror reversal or organs) in Cilliary Immotile Syndrome are pretty much known to be molecular coin-flips.

In my book. it's all about identity, not genome: if you accept that twins are not the same person, or that regular siblings can be genetically identical by sheer luck of the draw, the genome ceases to define the problem, and the existing laws, values and principles that cover various kinds of twins, siblings, adopted children and interbreeding cover all possible clone cases. They may be a tangle sometimes, but ask yourself when any mother or sister has ever been asked to prove they were genetically *different* from a daughter or younger sister. It's just not relevant to us: they are different people, regardless, with relative roles determined by society/circumstance. If it doesn't matter when an genetically identical pair occurs naturally ("by accident") as in MZ twins, it's not relevant when it occurs artificially.

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#6 Avalon

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 08:40 AM

Quote

one may strongly tend to the sciences, while the other may strongly tend to some more useful pursuit;

*snicker*

#7 Cybersnark

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 11:13 AM

I think the best sci-fi treatment of clone behaviour I've seen is in Karen Traviss' Star Wars: Republic Commando novels. Okay, genetically identical flash-grown, flash-educated clones isn't remotely realistic (yet), but ignoring the "hows" of the scenario, Traviss makes it explicit that the clones are not interchangeable "meat-droids."

There are genetic factors that guide behavior (the prototyped "Nulls" have normal levels of independence and willpower, while the latter versions are more obedient team-players), but there's also some genetic/behavioural randomness (guys like Scorch and Fi seem to have inherited a natural sense of humour, Darman is a thoughtful introvert, some clones end up in the wrong "stream" [this pilot would make a far better demolitionist, this sniper is better at wilderness tracking than sharpshooting, etc]) --plus as soon as the clones are "hatched," they start racking up different experiences, which shape them into entirely different people (the boys trained by Skirata are family [even to the point of putting Skirata's advice/requests/warnings ahead of actual orders], the soldiers trained by Vau are cold-blooded hardcases [showing signs of physical and emotional abuse]). And none of them are anything like Jango Fett (including Boba, who is a much more heartless, less culturally-educated man than his "father" was).

It becomes a plot point that if you take a latter "subservient" clone and put him in with the Nulls, he'll end up just as free-spirited and willful as his brothers. As the war goes on, the clones individualize more and more (sometimes to the point of defection).

Realistically, I think cloning is only really useful for "BSG-like" events (something kills off most of the population and you desperately need to repopulate). The "clones" will be equal parts genetic copies and "in vitro" gene splices (basically normal dual-zygote babies, just with no real "mothers"). Of course, the results will still be just babies that'll age normally.
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#8 Christopher

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 11:39 AM

What Orph said.  A clone isn't a copy; it's an offspring with only a single parent.  Your clone would have your genes, but genes are only one contributor to development, not the whole ballgame as people tend to assume.  Genes are the basic blueprints and programming for the body, but there are all sorts of epigenetic factors that affect how and whether they're expressed.  (A stark visual example: clones of cats often have different coat patterns than their originals.)  An original and a clone gestated in different wombs and raised in different environments would grow up more physically distinct than a pair of identical twins.  And of course they'd have wholly different life experiences and personalities.

So the real ethical question here is whether clones would be treated fairly as unique individuals or subjected to unfair treatment due to unrealistic myths and expectations about what cloning actually is.
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#9 Nick

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:01 PM

View PostChristopher, on Nov 2 2009, 11:39 AM, said:

So the real ethical question here is whether clones would be treated fairly as unique individuals or subjected to unfair treatment due to unrealistic myths and expectations about what cloning actually is.

QFT.

Imagine if we had a stormtrooper-like cloning program . . . many many offspring from the same single parent.  How would everyone else treat this "family" of nearly identical (in appearance) people?

"Uh oh, here comes another Jango.  I swear each copy they made got dumber and dumber.  Can't trust any of them, if you ask me.  Deceit is in their blood."

#10 Cybersnark

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:55 PM

Probably that effect would only last for the first generation (or however long it takes for firsthand accounts to creep into public consciousness --keeping the clones isolated would slow the process, giving them facetime and media exposure would speed it). Eventually, it would become commonplace enough that the assumptions would just become another quaint, racist anachronism, something Old People tut-tut about over tea and bridge while their grandchildren (who may have clone friends) roll their eyes. . .
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#11 Orpheus

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:55 PM

Excellent summary, Christopher! That's what I was (kinda, sorta) driving at.

#12 Annibal

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 02:04 PM

Isn't there an AWESOME Disney channel original movie involving a clone of some kind? And he's not an exact replica of the original. :D
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#13 Niki Jane

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 01:34 AM

View PostAnnibal, on Nov 2 2009, 02:04 PM, said:

Isn't there an AWESOME Disney channel original movie involving a clone of some kind? And he's not an exact replica of the original. :D

I think there was, but I just can't remember the name of it.

Now it's going to drive me crazy.

#14 Annibal

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 02:07 AM

The Other Me. That's it. :D Ah, Disney Channel.
"A song for a heart so big, god wouldn't let it live. May angels lead you in. Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in."

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#15 Rhea

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 09:27 PM

I'm with Orph and Annibal.

It's impossible to clone a duplicate of any living person, because the clone won't share the experiences of the original person. - they'll just be someone who looks like that person but who will be a different person from the moment of birth.
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