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This article is written by Anisha Bhandari pursuing B.A LL.B (HONS.) from Institute of Law, Nirma University. This article discusses the topic of human cloning and how inheritance plays a major role in it.

Introduction

There are two kinds of heredity in humankind: biological and cultural. Cultural inheritance enables humans to achieve what no other organism can achieve: the cumulative transfer of experience from generation to generation. Cultural identity, on the other hand, contributes to behavioural development, the dominant process of human adaptation. For the last few millennia, humans have more often adapted the environment to their genes than their genes to the environment. However, natural selection persists in modern humans, both as differential mortality and as differential fertility, although its intensity may decrease in the future. More than 2,000 individual illnesses and disorders have a hereditary source. 

Health care and the increasing feasibility of gene therapy will, albeit slowly, increase the incidence of hereditary diseases in the future. Germ-line gene therapy could avoid this rise, but it is not technologically feasible at present. There is no justification for proposing to enhance human genetic endowment through genetic cloning of eminent individuals. Genomes may be cloned; persons can not be cloned. For the future, clinical cloning will have increased incentives for organ transplantation, nerve cells, and tissue regeneration, among other health benefits.

What is Human Cloning

Human cloning may be referred to as ‘therapeutic cloning,’ in particular the cloning of embryonic cells for transplantation or the treatment of wounded nerve cells and other health purposes. Human cloning is more commonly stated to as “reproductive cloning,” the usage of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to obtain eggs that might develop into adult individuals. Human cloning has also been proposed as a means to boost the genetic endowment of humanity, by cloning persons of considerable accomplishment, for example, in athletics, music, art, education, literature, politics and the like, or of recognized virtue. Such ideas were obviously never taken seriously.

Albeit, certain persons have voiced a desire, unlikely, to be cloned, and some doctors have periodically declared that they are able to be cloned. Obstacles and drawbacks are many and insurmountable, at least in the current state of knowledge. Biologists use the term cloning with variable meanings, although all uses involve obtaining more or less accurate copies of a biological entity. Three specific applications refer to the cloning of DNA, the cloning of cells, and the cloning of individuals. It is not strictly possible to clone an entity, particularly in the case of a multicellular organism, such as a plant or an animal. The genes of an individual, the genome, may be cloned, but the individual itself can not be cloned, as it will be made clear below. 

Cloning genes or, more commonly, cloning DNA fragments is regularly performed in many genetics and pharmaceutical laboratories across the world. Cloning cell technologies in the laboratory are seven decades old and are used to reproduce a particular type of cell, such as a skin or a liver cell, to investigate its characteristics. Specific human cloning happens spontaneously in the case of identical twins when two people grow from a single fertilized embryo. These twins are called similar because they are physically identical to one another.

Types of Human Cloning

Reproductive Cloning

Reproductive cloning uses the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) method to grow the embryo. This technique involves donating the nucleus of the female donor to the egg cell. The egg cell nucleus is separated, producing an enucleated shell. The person who is being cloned acts as a somatic cell donor. The somatic cell is expected to produce DNA as the genetic content. The somatic cell is mixed with the enucleated egg in an artificial medium using electricity. High voltage makes pores in the somatic cell membrane and facilitates the infusion of egg cells into the somatic cell. This results in embryo formation. The embryo is then implanted into the uterus of the surrogate mother for gestation. At the end of the gestation period, the surrogate mother gives birth to the cloned child of the cloned subject. But the success rate for this operation is usually very low, and only one or two of the 1,000 embryos would have reached the world.

Therapeutic Cloning 

The main aim of therapeutic cloning is to develop stem cells from cloned embryos that would help in the treatment of many diseases/disorders. It also helps with organ replacement therapy. The process involved is identical to that of SCNT, but instead of injecting the embryo into the pregnant mother, the cells of the embryo are used to expand the stem cells. These stem cells are used for the corresponding therapies.

Molecular Cloning

Molecular cloning is a group of experimental molecular biology techniques used to combine and reproduce recombinant DNA molecules in host organisms. The use of the word cloning refers to the fact that the method involves the replication of a single molecule to produce a population of cells with identical DNA molecules. In general, molecular cloning utilizes DNA sequences from two separate organisms: the species that are a source of the DNA to be cloned, and species in the future will act as the living host for the reproduction of the recombinant DNA. Molecular cloning approaches are central to a variety of current areas in modern biology and medicine.

Legal Aspects in Human Cloning around the Globe

From a legal point of view, the production of cloned human embryos for the production of embryonic stem cells is concerned with the protection of embryos and the use of human cloning methods. It also raises questions in terms of patent law. However, national regulations are not the only relevant provisions in this case. Due to the increasing internationalization of research and experiments in the field of bioscience, it is essential that international regulations and declarations are also taken into account. Although these regulations are rarely legally binding at present, they often provide a structure for the development of legislation at the national level.

There are currently no clear, statutory rules regulating the usage of human cloning methods either at the level of the United Nations (UNO / UNESCO) or at the pan-European level (Council of Europe / European Union). However, there are relevant regulatory attempts at both levels, as well as opinions/statements that-though not legally binding-have the status of recommendations. Article 11 of the Universal Declaration on Human Genome and Human Rights adopted by UNESCO on 11 November 1997 notes that ‘practices detrimental to human integrity, such as sexual cloning of human beings, shall not be allowed.’ Thus, the legal status of cloning for research purposes remains open.

On 8 March 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Cloning on the basis of a recommendation of the Sixth Committee (Legal) of 24 February 2005. It contains an appeal to all UN Member States to take all appropriate steps to prohibit all types of human cloning, even for medical reasons.

The declaration states that all forms of human cloning are incompatible with human dignity and with the protection of human life. The vote reflects the profound division between the supporters and the opponents of the declaration. Supporters consider it as a landmark in the defence of individual integrity and the advancement of civil rights. Opponents criticized the link between the ban on reproductive cloning and the ban on cloning for medical purposes stating it to be an important opportunity to adopt a binding convention on the forbidden act of reproductive cloning that had been missed. The present declaration is not binding and has just the function of a suggestion. Representatives of the governments who voted against the declaration-including China, Belgium, and the United Kingdom-have made it known as the resolution which should have little impact on their stance on ‘therapeutic cloning.’

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Act, 1990 in the United Kingdom, contains a clear ban on changing the nucleus of an embryonic cell with a nucleus from the embryo that is taken from another human embryo or adult cell.

Section 3(3)(d) specifies that a license issued under the 1990 Act can not allow the substitution of a nucleus of an embryo cell by a nucleus taken from a cell of another individual, embryo, or the subsequent creation of an embryo. On the other side, it is not explicitly banned by the 1990 Act; nor is ’embryo splitting,’ a mechanism by which twinning happens spontaneously and which may also be performed in vitro to create identical-cloned embryos.

The Additional Protocol of the Council of Europe to the Convention for the Defense of Human Rights and the Dignity of Human Beings on the implementation of Genetics and Medicine, on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings, specifically notes that any action aimed at making a human being genetically similar to another human being, whether alive or deceased, shall be forbidden. Cloning is prohibited worldwide and is permitted in vitro in laboratory conditions only for animals, and is not yet approved for humans.

Bioethical issues of Cloning

Cloning a human being to produce a child is primarily intended to provide a ‘biologically related child’ to an infertile couple. Human cloning can put an end to genetic diseases that would otherwise generally be passed on to generations after generations. It also facilitates the replication of specific persons and guarantees that a genetically similar source of organs or tissue is ideally suited for transplantation. There is a section of people who welcome the idea of human cloning to make children. They proclaim that, in the modern globalized society, each individual is a master of his own mind and possesses the rationale to decide what is right and what is wrong with him. 

The United States Supreme Court in Eisenstadt v. Baird laid out a new theory concerning reproductive freedom: “If the right to privacy implies anything, it is the right of an adult, whether married or single, to be free from unreasonable governmental interference into matters that involve a person as a choice whether to bear or beget a child.” Hence, it is the usage of a modern strategy in infertility therapy. If ‘In vitro fertilization’ is acknowledged as a procreation technique, human cloning for children forms part of advanced science. Another argument raised by this section of people is that we are able to instil the basic necessities of modern society through cloning. This involves the appropriate health of the infant, the fulfilment of the wishes of a family to have a biologically connected child. The main aim is to create a safe and stable world: an infertile pair urgently searching for a child; removing a former partner or infant who is on a deathbed or dead; attempting to cure a genetic or inherited disease; facilitating the replication of gay men and lesbians who want little physical to do with the opposite sex; having a child with a genotype of one’s own choice; not excluding oneself; replicating persons with immense ability and genius; producing a wide collection with genetically similar human beings appropriate for study. 

For example, a debate about nature versus nurture or a special mission in peace and war in which the use of identical human beings would be advantageous. In India, the government has officially prohibited the cloning of human beings. The Biotechnology Department has prohibited any research into human cloning. It also sets out specific guidelines for research on stem cell biology with appropriate safety measures.

Advantages of Cloning

Infertile Couples 

One major advantage of cloning is that it allows infertile couples to reproduce, provided the reproduction can be modified inculcating the values and traits of both parents. During the process, somatic cells are extracted from the male sperm and injected into the female egg for fertilization. Once the embryo is developed, it is then implanted in a surrogate mother who will carry it for 9 months until birth. This implies that cloning will theoretically alleviate the problems of fertility. What’s more, the children created would have the DNA and the values of both parents instead of only one of them.

Contributes to Organ Replacement

Genetic cloning allows scientists to remove small amounts of cells from certain organs and to use them to generate and harvest new organs that are fully functioning. Given a large number of people on organ donation waiting lists, this is extremely beneficial.

Evolving Eminent Individuals

Historical and very powerful figures may probably be re-created. In principle, anyone like Martin Luther King Jr. or Albert Einstein may be brought back to existence through cloning. This means in today’s world we can have the presence of such knowledgeable individuals to educate and help people.

Cure For Disease 

Starting with the same process as adult DNA cloning, therapeutic cloning allows the resulting embryo to grow for days when the stem cells are then extracted and motivated to grow into human tissue or complete human organs that are used for transplantation or treatment of certain diseases. The end product will not be a human, rather it will either be a fragment of nerve tissue, a new organ, or a quantity of skin. 

Disadvantages of Cloning

Uncertainty 

There are also a number of impacts and consequences of cloning that have not yet been identified. This is, after all, a modern field of research that is still being explored, so there is no definitive way to predict the emotional, social, and medical implications it might have. Also, there is still no study and testing required until embarking on anything as crazy as the cloning of human beings. Given the issues that already arise with the cloning of species, we can confidently conclude that the process would be a very big barrier at the onset.

A Cause for New Diseases 

One of the possible risks for cloning is cell division, which is proven to result in fresh and more violent genetic disorders originating inside humans, causing a number of issues. In reality, many people assume that such an occurrence would be the end of humanity.

Problems in Organ Rejection

Cloning can, as mentioned above, trigger cell mutations, which are also highly probable even though the technique uses the cells of the recipient’s organ. This will result in a major change in the cell make-up between the initial and the replicated tissue.

Decrease in Diversification of Genes

The potential of humans to survive depends strongly on the variety of genes that come from parents that have specific sets of chromosomes. The big downside to similar genes is that they can degrade our defences and the strength that will make it possible for us to be exposed to other diseases. In addition, we should remember that the beauty of humanity lies in the differences between individuals and that this is ruined by cloning. Not to mention that it will minimize uncertainty and forecast preferences.

A Further Divide 

Nowadays, there is already a bit of division between people, whether it is due to race, religion, or social status-discrimination and biases certainly exist. Now, with cloned humans, they would act as though they weren’t as “normal” as other people who weren’t born out of cloning. 

Extinction 

One of the most unfavourable consequences of cloning is in-breeding, where everyone will have the same genotypes that can continue to reproduce among themselves. This means that this procedure would lead us to extinction. As Richard Nicholson of the British Medical Ethics Review put it, the cloning work could well be “scattering the seeds of our own death.”

Conclusion

While genes are recognized as having an effect on action and thought, “genetically identical” does not mean fully identical, because certain essential genes are still found in the egg cell, mitochondria. It could cause problems in the treatment of stem cells for a good number of diseases where compatibility is essential due to the risk of rejection. Through further research on other species, we will increase the precision of therapeutic cloning. For some, the temptation to manipulate another human life is almost irresistible, as history is filled with the practice of eugenics in some parts of the world. 

The genesis of the 21st century is a period of unparalleled technological prowess combined with unparalleled moral emptiness. In order to prevent the misuse of science, reproductive cloning should be banned worldwide before the general society, including scientists, ethicists, and theologians, seek answers to the nature of human cloning in a comprehensive and acceptable manner.

References


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