Animal Cloning Research Paper

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Technological developments in the field of bioengineering have allowed for the successful cloning of organisms. Cloning is no longer only the subject of science fiction because animal cloning has already been realized, paving the way for the possibility of human cloning. Although Dolly the sheep is the most famous attempt to clone an animal, it was neither the first nor the last organism that has been cloned, and inasmuch as animal cloning may represent scientific and technological progress, and hold benefits, it raises ethical issues.

Part I of this research paper describes the terms “cloning” and “clone” and distinguishes different types of cloning. The different methods used to clone animals are also described.

Part II reviews the development of animal cloning science and gives an overview of events pivotal to the development of animal cloning and its potential applications and purposes.

Part III considers the ethical concerns surrounding animal cloning. Objections to animal cloning are reviewed and the merits of ant cloning arguments evaluated. Some arguments that can be made against animal cloning can be easily refuted, while other arguments constitute serious objections to cloning that require public consideration and debate.


Technological developments in the field of bioengineering have allowed for the successful cloning of organisms. Cloning is no longer only the subject of science fiction because animal cloning has already been realized, paving the way for the possibility of human cloning. Although Dolly the sheep is the most famous attempt to clone an animal, it was neither the first nor the last organism that has been cloned, and inasmuch as animal cloning may represent scientific and technological progress, and hold benefits, it raises ethical issues.

Part I of this research paper describes the terms cloning and clone and distinguishes different types of cloning. The different methods used to clone animals are also described.

Part II reviews the development of animal cloning science and gives an overview of events pivotal to the development of animal cloning and its potential applications and purposes.

Part III considers the ethical concerns surrounding animal cloning. Objections to animal cloning are reviewed and the merits of anticloning arguments evaluated. Some arguments that can be made against animal cloning can be easily refuted, while other arguments constitute serious objections to cloning that require public consideration and debate.

What is Cloning?

The term cloning describes a number of processes that produce genetically identical copies of biological matters such as genes, cells, tissues, or entire organisms such as plants and animals (National Academy of Sciences 2002). Each newly produced copy is a clone of the original. The production of clones can be a natural process, but it can also be brought about deliberately (Vajta and Gjerris 2006). Cloning occurs naturally in the animal and plant kingdoms through a process called asexual reproduction. In asexual reproduction, a new individual is created from a copy of a single cell from the progenitor (National Human Genome Research Institute 2014; Vajta and Gjerris 2006).

Asexual reproduction of mammals is not a naturally occurring phenomenon although genetically identical individuals, known as monozygotic twins do occur. Identical twins can however not be considered clones in this respect because they are not the result of asexual reproduction. Moreover, identical twins typically turn up without the involvement of scientists and are born at the same time, whereas clones are created in a laboratory and can be born years apart. Another reason why identical twins are not clones in the same respect is because twins share all their genetic material, whereas clones only share their core DNA. Core DNA comes from the animal to be cloned and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the donor egg cell (Vajta and Gjerris 2006).

Types Of Artificial Cloning

Artificial cloning methods are laboratory processes and techniques used to deliberately produce genetically identical copies of biological matter. There are three different types of artificial cloning – each with a different focus or purpose (National Human Genome Research Institute 2014).

Gene Cloning

Gene cloning is also referred to as molecular or DNA cloning. In gene cloning, DNA fragments containing genes from one organism (typically referred to as a foreign organism) are copied and amplified in a host cell – usually a bacterium – called a vector (National Human Genome Research Institute 2014). Gene cloning is used routinely by scientists to create large numbers of identical copies of genes or segments of DNA molecules so that it can be studied and used in experiments and to test new medicines (National Academy of Sciences 2002).

Therapeutic Cloning

Therapeutic cloning involves the creation of cloned embryos, from the genetic material of stem cells to obtain stem cells, which can then be used for the development of patient and disease-specific cell-based therapies as well as the production of stem cells with specific disease characteristics for research purposes (Hadjantonakis and Papaioannou 2002; Kfoury 2007; Solter 2000). In therapeutic cloning, the cloned embryos do not develop beyond a clump of cells and will never be implanted into a female (National Academy of Sciences 2002).

Reproductive Cloning

Reproductive cloning is also called organism cloning. Usually, when people talk about cloning, they are referring to this type of cloning.

Reproductive cloning is most controversial because it involves making a genetically identical copy of a whole organism (National Academy of Sciences 2002). It is an asexual method of reproduction but one that usually requires the use of a surrogate mother to allow for development of the cloned embryo.

Stem Cells And Cloning

Stem cells are cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Stem cells have the ability to divide repeatedly and give rise to both specialized cells and more stem cells (National Human Genome Research Institute 2014). Under the right conditions in the body or a laboratory, stem cells divide to form more cells. These cells can either become new stem cells (self-renewal) or become specialized cells (differentiation) with a more specific function.

Stem cells can be classified according to their source or according to their developmental versatility or plasticity. Embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived directly from cloned embryos. The first few cell divisions in embryonic development, following fertilization, when the embryo is still known as a blastocyst, produce more totipotent cells. Totipotent stem cells are the most versatile of the stem cell types because it has the potential to give rise to any and all cells found in an adult organism. After 4 days of embryonic cell division, the cells begin to specialize into pluripotent stem cells. Like totipotent stem cells, pluripotent stem cells can divide into more stem cells or become any cell type that is found in an adult organism (National Human Genome Research Institute 2014). Adult stem cells originate in a variety of mature tissues and organs and are also known as somatic stem cells. Somatic cells include virtually any cell that forms the body of an organism, excluding sperm and eggs. Adult stem cells are multipotent. Multipotent stem cells are less plastic and more differentiated stem cells that can develop only into a limited number of cell types.

Pluripotent stem cells with properties similar to embryonic stem cells can be induced readily from differentiated somatic cells. There are two complementary methods for creating pluripotent stem cells from somatic cells. Somatic nuclear transplantation (SCNT) is the basis of cloning. In this technique, the nucleus of an egg cell is removed and replaced with the nucleus of an adult (somatic) cell, like a skin or blood cell, leading to the generation of an entire organism, which is a genetically identical clone of the original somatic cell (Yamanaka and Blau 2010). Another way to create pluripotent stem cells from somatic cells is by inducing pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) (Yamanaka and Blau 2010). The creation of iPSCs involves the delivery of a specific set of genes (known as key factors) into a given cell type. Both methods of transforming somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells that resemble embryonic stem cells are effective, but the mechanisms underlying such dramatic transformation are poorly understood (Yamanaka and Blau 2010; Alicea and Cibelli 2014).

It has been suggested that iPS cells would end the debate on embryonic stem cells due to their non-embryonic origin. But even though iPSCs have the potential to reduce the need for embryos in research and open up new possibilities for stem cell-based therapies, and thus avoid some of the ethical issues, they are unlikely to settle the debate on the use of embryos in research. One reason is because SCNT-derived cells and iPS cells are not exactly like natural pluripotent cells; they are reprogrammed to behave like ES cells (Watt and Kobayashi 2010). Studies have suggested that SCNT-based stem cells may be slightly more effective than iPSCs, but it still remains unknown whether SCNT-derived cells provide an advantage over iPSCs for use in disease modeling and cell-based therapies to justify an increased effort in generating them (Yamanaka and Blau 2010). The most optimistic estimates of efficiency are 3.4 % for SCNT-derived ESCs and 1–3 % for iPSCs (Alicea and Cibelli 2014). On the other hand, SCNT is more technically demanding and inefficient and requires large numbers of eggs, whereas collecting donor cells and a few genetic markers is more straightforward (Yamanaka and Blau 2010). Another reason why iPSCs are unlikely to settle the debate about the use of embryos relates to the potential for iPS cells to be reprogrammed into sperm and egg cells that can be used to make a new embryo, in effect producing clone of whole organisms (Watt and Kobayashi 2010).

As with many powerful technological advances, dual-use ethical issues can arise and that is certainly the case with therapeutic cloning. Reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning use the same techniques, and both involve the creation, use, and destruction of embryos. The main difference between the two is the intended use of the embryos. In therapeutic cloning, the purpose is to obtain stem cells from the cloned embryo for research and therapeutic purposes, whereas the purpose of reproductive cloning is to clone whole organisms, and the cloned embryo is implanted into a surrogate mother for further development. Therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning are both controversial; however, the controversy raised by therapeutic cloning is arguably tempered by the hope it provides.

History And Development Of Animal Cloning

In 1997, animal reproductive cloning was revolutionized when the successful cloning of a sheep known as Dolly was announced to the public (Wilmut et al. 2000). Dolly is arguably the most famous cloning event, but Dolly was neither the first nor the last attempt to clone animals. Dolly was publicly significant because it was the first animal that was successfully cloned via SCNT from a cultured adult cell (Wilmut et al. 2000; Vajta and Gjerris 2006). Prior to Dolly, all animal cloning experiments used nuclei from cells in early embryos.

Since Dolly, scientists have successfully cloned many other animals including cows, goats, pigs, rabbits, mules, horses, cats, dogs, and endangered and extinct animal species using embryonic and adult cells (Fiester 2005; National Human Genome Research Institute 2014; Solter 2000; Vajta and Gjerris 2006). Theoretically, any animal could be cloned depending on the availability of a viable source of DNA from the animal and closely related living relatives to serve as egg donors and surrogate mothers (Jabr 2013).

Why Clone Animals?

Animal cloning projects are aimed at human ends but are also motivated by regard for animals as ends in themselves (Fiester 2005). There are potential benefits of animal cloning to human medicine, food production, pharmaceutical applications, and animals themselves (Fiester 2005). Animal cloning provides the ability to preserve and extend rare and superior genetics. It enables scientists to predict the characteristics of each animal rather than take the chance that natural sexual reproduction provides. The best animals can be selected and reproduced – for example, ones that are disease resistant or that produce a lot of safe high-quality food. Another possible use of cloned animals is for testing new drugs and treatment strategies (Paterson et al. 2003; Vajta and Gjerris 2006). The advantage of using cloned animals for drug testing is that being genetically identical, responses to the drugs should be uniform rather than variable as seen in traditional experiments which employ animals with different genetic makeups (Vajta and Gjerris 2006). Genetically modifying cloned animals so that they produce significant quantities of proteins or other biological substances in their milk or other tissues – a process known as “pharming” – is another use of cloning technology in animals (Paterson et al. 2003; Solter 2000). Genetically modified animals can provide more nutritious and wholesome produce (Solter 2000) that could result in reduced use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals and thereby potentially help humans to recover more quickly from disease and in some instances eliminate it through organ reproduction and implantation (Paterson et al. 2003). Using cloning procedures, scientists can generate tissues and whole organs to treat patients who otherwise cannot obtain transplants, to avoid the need for immunosuppressive drugs, and to delay the effects of aging (Kfoury 2007). Cloning can be used to restore endangered species or even revive deceased animals if a well-preserved tissue sample and a closely related living animal are available to serve as an egg donor and surrogate mother.

Ethical Issues In Animal Cloning

Animal cloning raises two sets of ethical concerns (Fiester 2005). One set of concerns are consequentialist in nature and focus on the negative consequences to animals, the environment, and human beings. The other set of concerns are deontological in nature. Underpinning deontological arguments is the claim that science and technology violates an important moral prohibition or duty. Here, there are concerns about the “unnaturalness” of cloning, concerns about “playing God,” and concerns about using animals as means to human ends.

Consequentialist Concerns

Despite years of experimentation, the efficiency of animal cloning remains low (Paterson et al. 2003; Solter 2000), whether looked at in terms of live births per embryo produced in the laboratory or live births per embryo transferred to the uterus (National Academy of Sciences 2002). Many healthy, apparently normal, clones have been born and have survived to fertile adulthood. Dolly, for instance, lived for almost 7 years and gave birth to lambs, conceived by natural mating (Wilmut et al. 2000). However, across multiple species, there are more failures in the development of cloned fetuses than there are live normal births. Usually, numerous attempts are needed to create a clone. For instance, Dolly was the only one to develop from 277 clones (Wilmut et al. 2000).

When working with familiar animal species, current cloning techniques have an average success rate of around 5 %, whereas cloning wild animals is typically less than 1 % successful (Jabr 2013). Additionally, for a clone to be created, it is necessary to have females of a closely related species to provide eggs and, if cloned embryos are produced, to carry the pregnancies.

In SCNT, not all of the donor cell’s genetic information is transferred, as the donor cell’s mitochondria that contain their own mtDNA are left behind (Vajta and Gjerris 2006). The resulting hybrid cells retain those mitochondrial structures which originally belonged to the egg. As a consequence, clones such as Dolly that are born from SCNT are not perfect copies of the donor of the nucleus. This fact may also hamper the potential benefits of SCNT-derived tissues/organs for therapy, as there may be an immunoresponse to the nonself mtDNA after transplant. In the case of endangered and extinct animals, scientists may also sometimes compensate by fusing the DNA of the endangered or extinct animal with the eggs from a closely related domestic animal. Such hybrid embryos often fail to develop properly (Jabr 2013) and can cause fetal loss and risk maternal health (National Academy of Sciences 2002).

A wide array of abnormalities and defects has been observed in cloned animals. Some of the most notable defects are increased birth size; lung, kidney, and cardiovascular problems; liver, joint, and brain defects; and immune dysfunction (National Academy of Sciences 2002; Vajta and Gjerris 2006). Many of the defects seen in clones are the same as those described for “large offspring syndrome” (LOS), which is frequently seen in uncloned offspring produced after IVF and embryo manipulation. Usually, numerous attempts are needed to create a clone. For instance, Dolly was the only one to develop from 277 clones (Wilmut et al. 2000). LOS is attributed to, among other things, the exposure of eggs and embryo to suboptimal culture conditions in the laboratory and abnormal gene expression in the early embryo, including the misexpression of imprinted genes (Vajta and Gjerris 2006). Although a scientific perspective would probably interpret these shortcomings as obstacles that are to be overcome, a theological perspective might construct these as an indication of the inappropriateness of “playing God.”

Proponents of animal cloning argue that efficiency rates are constantly improving, but given the present situation, even the highest efficiency rates and best health outcomes entail a significant cost in animal welfare (Fiester 2005). The low success rates, difficulties, and risks involved thus raise the question whether cloning animals is a worthy social pursuit and investment, particularly in resource-poor countries.

Proponents of animal cloning further maintain that any criticism of animal cloning must be made against a backdrop of standard practices involving animals, in areas such as research, agriculture, and sport, which also involve pain and suffering. They also point out that if the analysis is to be truly consequentialist, then the benefits of animal cloning are to be weighed against the pain and suffering of animals (Fiester 2005). Essentially, proponents suggest that animal pain and suffering due to cloning may be no different from that experienced in other traditional areas of animal use and that animal cloning should not be held to a higher standard of preserving animal welfare than is the current practice in these traditional areas of animal use. However, the assumption underlying these arguments is that the use of animals in these areas is morally acceptable or that we have societal consensus about the moral legitimacy of these practices (Fiester 2005).

Although some experts think cloning can save animals that would otherwise disappear, others point out that cloning produces a population of genetically identical animals that lack the genetic variability necessary for species survival. If a large population of animals becomes genetically identical, that species is much more susceptible to extinction if a serious pandemic were to occur. Opponents to cloning endangered animals argue that cloning gives a false sense of security that populations of endangered animals can be rekindled. They argue that conservation through habitat preservation may be a better way to protect these animals, since many recent animal extinctions and threats of extinction have been due to human activities such as hunting and habitat destruction. Still, others argue that any reproductive tool, including cloning, to save endangered animals is important.

On the other hand, the presence of cloned animals raises questions which bother largely on uncertainty, for instance, concerning their impact on natural ecosystems. Will they damage the environment or eliminate other species? Will the introduction of extinct animals require modifying or creating new habitats so that they can flourish or will they be doomed to a life of captivity or be subjected to a series of different experiments? Can they be successfully reintroduced to the wild?

What use is the cloned animal if we don’t have space where the animal can live? Why should we bother resurrecting deceased animals? Opponents of pet cloning, for instance, point out that it is waste of financial and intellectual resources in light of the many animals available for adoption in shelters. For them, these resources are better spent elsewhere. The trouble with this argument is that assumes that individuals should spend their money only in certain ways or for particular purposes only and not on whatever they choose.

A final set of consequentialist arguments focuses on the potential effects of cloning for human beings. Ever since cloning technology has been developed, it has sought to be more efficient, making human reproductive cloning a possibility. Some people argue that cloning could help sterile couples fulfill their dream of parenthood. Others see cloning as a way to avoid passing on a deleterious gene that runs in the family. Another set of concerns about the effects of animal cloning involves food production from cloned animals. Despite the USA, UK, and the European Union having concluded that meat and milk from cloned animals traditionally consumed as food and their offspring are as safe for human and animal consumption as food produced by conventionally bred animals, there are still public concerns about the potential negative impact on human health, particularly in light of the few food safety studies that have been conducted.

The consequentialist arguments against animal cloning raise important concerns, but they do not constitute justification for an outright rejection of animal cloning. Some of the concerns can be addressed through stricter regulation. The consequentialist calculation demands that the benefits and costs of cloning are weighed. This implies that some forms of cloning may be permissible, if the costs in animal suffering are small and the benefits to humans, animals, and the environment are large (Fiester 2005).

Deontological Concerns

One kind of deontological argument appeals to nature and the morality of interfering in the natural order of things. Cloning may be unnatural, but only in the sense that it is not the process by which mammals ordinarily procreate. The problem with the argument that cloning is unnatural is that it simply equates the ethical with what is natural and fails to appreciate that humans are themselves part of nature and do, often, interfere with nature and usually for good moral reasons, so there cannot be something inherently immoral about animal cloning. For instance, organ transplants are as radically unnatural as gene transplants, but most people consider them to be ethically acceptable. The natural-unnatural division is therefore not in itself of intrinsic ethical significance; otherwise, much of medicine and other creations to improve human life would be immoral.

Another common deontological argument against cloning is what is known as the “playing God” problem (Fiester 2005). Many, though not all perspectives on the warning not to play God, have its roots in the Biblical story of creation. In Genesis, chapter 1, verses 27–28, it is said that “God created humankind in his own image” and gave people “dominion” over animals. These features of God and the characteristics of humanity underpin the various notions of what it means to play God and the various conceptions of the moral status and proper treatment of animals. The general question of the extent to which human beings are shapers and creators of their personal and collective futures continues to be important and contested. On one account cloning is a hubristic attempt by human beings to be divine. On this understanding, cloning animals is immoral and wrong because creating and destroying life are things only God has the authority to do. Related to this is the claim that human beings and animals have a common material origin, which precludes the use of animals for human-centric ends animals. Another understanding holds that cloning isn’t playing God per se, but rather the outcome of human beings’ God-given creativity and freedom (features of God) to forge a more consonant with humanity (Fiester 2005). By this account, cloning merely represents the human exercise of God-given abilities to acquire and implement knowledge to improve humanity and the world.

Not all playing God arguments are, however, rooted in religion. A secular version of the warning not to play God holds “that we dehumanize ourselves and devalue the natural world by engaging in such activity” (Fiester 2005). Immanuel Kant, for instance, believes we have no direct duties to animals because they are nonrational creatures; hence, they can be used merely as means to an end. However, he did not think it entailed people treating animals in a cruel manner. He believes that needless cruelty to animals should be avoided because of the effect it will have on us. For Kant, it will be bad for our relationships with other people and ourselves (Kant 2006). Proponents of animal cloning point out that we already treat animals as property and products, so cloning simply reaffirms the status quo, and does not change the status of animals.


This research paper has described the methods used to obtain stem cells and create animal clones and considered consequentialist and deontological objections to the practice of animal cloning. The history of cloning reveals many notable scientific achievements and advances.

Discoveries emerging from cloning continue to yield important scientific and practical results, with many implications. Animal cloning holds great potential not only for treatment of disease and transplantation but also for potentially saving endangered animals and reviving deceased animals. However, cloning raises many ethical issues related to the moral status and proper treatment of animals and the consequences for animals, the environment, and human beings.

There are scientific questions that need to be answered before we have an adequate basis of knowledge for reaching final ethical decisions. Reproductive cloning technology is not yet developed enough to be safe and efficient. The experience and results of animal cloning have shown that this advancing technology has adverse effects on the health and welfare of animals involved. It is also not certain what the long-term effects of animal cloning may be on human health and welfare and the environment. The quest for ethical decisions must therefore involve the participation of the general public because it could have serious implications for the commercialization and acceptance of the products of clones.

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