Pros and Cons of Animal Cloning

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Dolly the Sheep made history as being the first animal that was directly cloned from an adult somatic cell through the nuclear transfer process. The cells that helped to create Dolly were taken from a mammary gland and she lived to the age of about 6.5 years. Here are the pros and cons of animal cloning more than a decade after this scientific feat.

What Are the Pros of Animal Cloning?

1. It could revive extinct animal species.
In 2009, researchers announced a successful cloning of a Pyrenean Ibex, an animal that had been considered extinct for 9 years at the time. The ibex was born with birth defects in the lungs and died a short time after, but the future possibility of bringing back animals from frozen tissues is exciting.

2. Food production could dramatically increase.
Instead of being forced to wait for the natural breeding cycle to expand a herd, animal cloning could do it in a fraction of the time. Imagine being able to clone multiple sheep from the same mammary gland cell samples for food, wool, and other needed items – it could change farming.

3. Cloned animals can still naturally reproduce.
Dolly had 6 lambs in total over the course of her life, including a set of twins and a set of triplets, all before the arthritis began to set in at an early age. This proved that cloned animals are still capable of reproduction.

What Are the Cons of Animal Cloning?

1. The cloned animal may end up suffering from unanticipated health issues.
In the case of Dolly, she began to suffer from severe arthritis by the age of 4. She also developed a progressive lung disease and wound up living to only half the age of the average domestic sheep.

2. Animal cloning is still an imperfect science.
Dolly was the only viable embryo out of 277 that were attempted at the time. Now some science groups who routinely practice cloning report success rates of up to 80%, but there is still room for improvement.

3. Cloned animals breeding with non-cloned animals could change genetic structures.
There are some theories that believe cloned animals have shorter telomeres, which contributes to a reduced lifespan. Telomeres reduce with the natural aging process. If cloned and non-cloned animals were bred together, the genetic differences could radically change the nature of that species.

Animal cloning still has some ethical concerns to be debated in addition to these pros and cons. Is this playing God? Or is it humanity embracing the scientific future? Be weighing key points like these, we’ll be able to continue making beneficial decisions as we move forward.