The beginning of February 2017 welcomed the twentieth anniversary of arguably the greatest achievement humankind has made so far in the field of cloning; Dolly the Sheep. Dolly, the first ever animal clone, astounded the scientific community by showing that reproductive cloning, or the direct copying of animal cells, was indeed possible.
However, as the year progressed, it became apparent to the scientific community that the field of cloning had made no real significant strides since the discovery of reproductive cloning.
This all changed, however, with the discovery of therapeutic cloning in March 2017.
Scientists had been developing a mouse embryo structure using stem cells grown under laboratory conditions, according to findings published in the academic journal Science. This has been done before; however, the embryos developed the beginnings to their normal structural organs, just as if they had developed in a mother’s womb.
These mice were unable to fully develop, as they were missing yolk sacs, the sac of nutrients that nourishes the cell during development, and is the essential site for white blood cell maturation.
Nonetheless, this new evidence of therapeutic cloning is a huge move in the step towards human cloning, as the possibility of a cloned human life could only be created therapeutically.
This development marks significant progress in embryo development, as previously attempts to grow artificial cells have only had limited success.
The discovery of therapeutic cloning is so significant a scientific breakthrough that many have become adamant in calling for legislation that prevents the development of genetically modified clones.
Those like Dr. David King, the Director of Human Genetics Alert, believe that “Until there is an enforceable global ban on those possibilities, this kind of research risks doing the scientific groundwork for entrepreneurs who will use the technologies in countries with no regulations.”
Regardless of one’s stance on genetic modification, this groundbreaking discovery opens a variety of new opportunities for stem cell research and development.
One thing stands to be true; we may be closer to cloning one another than we think!