Human cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy (or
clone) of a human. The term is generally used to refer to artificial
human cloning, which is the reproduction of human cells and tissue. It
does not refer to the natural conception and delivery of identical
twins. The possibility of human cloning has raised controversies.
These ethical concerns have prompted several nations to pass laws
regarding human cloning and its legality.
Two commonly discussed types of theoretical human cloning are:
therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning
would involve cloning cells from a human for use in medicine and
transplants, and is an active area of research, but is not in medical
practice anywhere in the world, as of April 2017[update]. Two
common methods of therapeutic cloning that are being researched are
somatic-cell nuclear transfer and, more recently, pluripotent stem
cell induction. Reproductive cloning would involve making an entire
cloned human, instead of just specific cells or tissues.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer
Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)
2.2 Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)
2.3 Comparing SCNT to reprogramming
3 Uses, actual and potential
5 Current law
5.5 European Union
5.8 South Africa
5.9 United Kingdom
5.10 United Nations
5.11 United States
6 In popular culture
8 Further reading
9 External links
Although the possibility of cloning humans had been the subject of
speculation for much of the 20th century, scientists and policy makers
began to take the prospect seriously in the mid-1960s.
Nobel Prize-winning geneticist
Joshua Lederberg advocated cloning and
genetic engineering in an article in
The American Naturalist in 1966
and again, the following year, in The Washington Post. He sparked a
debate with conservative bioethicist Leon Kass, who wrote at the time
that "the programmed reproduction of man will, in fact, dehumanize
him." Another Nobel Laureate, James D. Watson, publicized the
potential and the perils of cloning in his
Atlantic Monthly essay,
"Moving Toward the Clonal Man", in 1971.
With the cloning of a sheep known as Dolly in 1996 by somatic cell
nuclear transfer (SCNT), the idea of human cloning became a hot debate
topic. Many nations outlawed it, while a few scientists promised to
make a clone within the next few years. The first hybrid human clone
was created in November 1998, by Advanced Cell Technology. It was
created using SCNT - a nucleus was taken from a man's leg cell and
inserted into a cow's egg from which the nucleus had been removed, and
the hybrid cell was cultured, and developed into an embryo. The embryo
was destroyed after 12 days.
In 2004 and 2005, Hwang Woo-suk, a professor at Seoul National
University, published two separate articles in the journal Science
claiming to have successfully harvested pluripotent, embryonic stem
cells from a cloned human blastocyst using somatic-cell nuclear
transfer techniques. Hwang claimed to have created eleven different
patent-specific stem cell lines. This would have been the first major
breakthrough in human cloning. However, in 2006 Science retracted
both of his articles on clear evidence that much of his data from the
experiments was fabricated.
In January 2008, Dr. Andrew French and Samuel Wood of the
Stemagen announced that they successfully
created the first five mature human embryos using SCNT. In this case,
each embryo was created by taking a nucleus from a skin cell (donated
by Wood and a colleague) and inserting it into a human egg from which
the nucleus had been removed. The embryos were developed only to the
blastocyst stage, at which point they were studied in processes that
destroyed them. Members of the lab said that their next set of
experiments would aim to generate embryonic stem cell lines; these are
the "holy grail" that would be useful for therapeutic or reproductive
In 2011, scientists at the
New York Stem Cell Foundation announced
that they had succeeded in generating embryonic stem cell lines, but
their process involved leaving the oocyte's nucleus in place,
resulting in triploid cells, which would not be useful for
In 2013, a group of scientists led by
Shoukhrat Mitalipov published
the first report of embryonic stem cells created using SCNT. In this
experiment, the researchers developed a protocol for using SCNT in
human cells, which differs slightly from the one used in other
organisms. Four embryonic stem cell lines from human fetal somatic
cells were derived from those blastocysts. All four lines were derived
using oocytes from the same donor, ensuring that all mitochondrial DNA
inherited was identical. A year later, a team led by Robert Lanza
Advanced Cell Technology
Advanced Cell Technology reported that they had replicated
Mitalipov's results and further demonstrated the effectiveness by
cloning adult cells using SCNT.
In 2018, the first successful cloning of primates using somatic cell
nuclear transfer, the same method as Dolly the sheep, with the birth
of two live female clones (crab-eating macaques named Zhong Zhong and
Hua Hua) was reported.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer
Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)
Somatic cell nuclear transfer
Diagram of SCNT Process
In somatic cell nuclear transfer ("SCNT"), the nucleus of a somatic
cell is taken from a donor and transplanted into a host egg cell,
which had its own genetic material removed previously, making it an
enucleated egg. After the donor somatic cell genetic material is
transferred into the host oocyte with a micropipette, the somatic cell
genetic material is fused with the egg using an electric current. Once
the two cells have fused, the new cell can be permitted to grow in a
surrogate or artificially. This is the process that was used to
successfully clone Dolly the sheep (see section on History in this
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)
Overview of iPS cells
Main article: Induced pluripotent stem cell
Creating induced pluripotent stem cells ("iPSCs") is a long and
Pluripotency refers to a stem cell that has the
potential to differentiate into any of the three germ layers: endoderm
(interior stomach lining, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs), mesoderm
(muscle, bone, blood, urogenital), or ectoderm (epidermal tissues and
nervous tissue). A specific set of genes, often called
"reprogramming factors", are introduced into a specific adult cell
type. These factors send signals in the mature cell that cause the
cell to become a pluripotent stem cell. This process is highly studied
and new techniques are being discovered frequently on how to better
this induction process.
Depending on the method used, reprogramming of adult cells into iPSCs
for implantation could have severe limitations in humans. If a virus
is used as a reprogramming factor for the cell, cancer-causing genes
called oncogenes may be activated. These cells would appear as rapidly
dividing cancer cells that do not respond to the body's natural cell
signaling process. However, in 2008 scientists discovered a technique
that could remove the presence of these oncogenes after pluripotency
induction, thereby increasing the potential use of iPSC in humans.
Comparing SCNT to reprogramming
Both the processes of SCNT and iPSCs have benefits and deficiencies.
Historically, reprogramming methods were better studied than SCNT
derived embryonic stem cells (ESCs). However, more recent studies
have put more emphasis on developing new procedures for SCNT-ESCs. The
major advantage of SCNT over iPSCs at this time is the speed with
which cells can be produced. iPSCs derivation takes several months
while SCNT would take a much shorter time, which could be important
for medical applications. New studies are working to improve the
process of iPSC in terms of both speed and efficiency with the
discovery of new reprogramming factors in oocytes.
Another advantage SCNT could have over iPSCs is its potential to treat
mitochondrial disease, as it utilizes a donor oocyte. No other
advantages are known at this time in using stem cells derived from one
method over stem cells derived from the other.
Uses, actual and potential
Stem cell treatments
Work on cloning techniques has advanced our basic understanding of
developmental biology in humans. Observing human pluripotent stem
cells grown in culture provides great insight into human embryo
development, which otherwise cannot be seen. Scientists are now able
to better define steps of early human development. Studying signal
transduction along with genetic manipulation within the early human
embryo has the potential to provide answers to many developmental
diseases and defects. Many human-specific signaling pathways have been
discovered by studying human embryonic stem cells. Studying
developmental pathways in humans has given developmental biologists
more evidence toward the hypothesis that developmental pathways are
conserved throughout species.
iPSCs and cells created by SCNT are useful for research into the
causes of disease, and as model systems used in drug
Cells produced with SCNT, or iPSCs could eventually be used in stem
cell therapy, or to create organs to be used in transplantation,
known as regenerative medicine.
Stem cell therapy is the use of stem
cells to treat or prevent a disease or condition. Bone marrow
transplantation is a widely used form of stem cell therapy. No
other forms of stem cell therapy are in clinical use at this time.
Research is underway to potentially use stem cell therapy to treat
heart disease, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.
Regenerative medicine is not in clinical practice, but is heavily
researched for its potential uses. This type of medicine would allow
for autologous transplantation, thus removing the risk of organ
transplant rejection by the recipient. For instance, a person with
liver disease could potentially have a new liver grown using their
same genetic material and transplanted to remove the damaged
liver. In current research, human pluripotent stem cells have been
promised as a reliable source for generating human neurons, showing
the potential for regenerative medicine in brain and neural
Main article: Ethics of cloning
In bioethics, the ethics of cloning refers to a variety of ethical
positions regarding the practice and possibilities of cloning,
especially human cloning. While many of these views are religious in
origin, the questions raised by cloning are faced by secular
perspectives as well.
Human therapeutic and reproductive cloning are
not commercially used; animals are currently cloned in laboratories
and in livestock production.
Advocates support development of therapeutic cloning in order to
generate tissues and whole organs to treat patients who otherwise
cannot obtain transplants, to avoid the need for immunosuppressive
drugs, and to stave off the effects of aging. Advocates for
reproductive cloning believe that parents who cannot otherwise
procreate should have access to the technology.
Opposition to therapeutic cloning mainly centers around the status of
embryonic stem cells, which has connections with the abortion
Some opponents of reproductive cloning have concerns that technology
is not yet developed enough to be safe - for example, the position of
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association for the Advancement of Science as of
2014[update], while others emphasize that reproductive cloning
could be prone to abuse (leading to the generation of humans whose
organs and tissues would be harvested), and have concerns
about how cloned individuals could integrate with families and with
society at large.
Religious groups are divided, with some[which?] opposing the
technology as usurping God's (in monotheistic traditions) place and,
to the extent embryos are used, destroying a human life; others
support therapeutic cloning's potential life-saving benefits.
In 2015 it was reported that about 70 countries had banned human
Human cloning is banned by the Presidential Decree 200/97 of 7 March
Australia has prohibited human cloning, though as of
December 2006[update], a bill legalizing therapeutic cloning and
the creation of human embryos for stem cell research passed the House
of Representatives. Within certain regulatory limits, and subject to
the effect of state legislation, therapeutic cloning is now legal in
some parts of Australia.
Canadian law prohibits the following: cloning humans, cloning stem
cells, growing human embryos for research purposes, and buying or
selling of embryos, sperm, eggs or other human reproductive
material. It also bans making changes to human DNA that would pass
from one generation to the next, including use of animal DNA in
humans. Surrogate mothers are legally allowed, as is donation of sperm
or eggs for reproductive purposes.
Human embryos and stem cells are
also permitted to be donated for research.
There have been consistent calls in Canada to ban human reproductive
cloning since the 1993 Report of the Royal Commission on New
Reproductive Technologies. Polls have indicated that an overwhelming
majority of Canadians oppose human reproductive cloning, though the
regulation of human cloning continues to be a significant national and
international policy issue. The notion of "human dignity" is commonly
used to justify cloning laws. The basis for this justification is that
reproductive human cloning necessarily infringes notions of human
Human cloning is prohibited in Article 133 of the Colombian Penal
The European Convention on
Human Rights and Biomedicine prohibits
human cloning in one of its additional protocols, but this protocol
has been ratified only by Greece,
Spain and Portugal. The Charter of
Fundamental Rights of the
European Union explicitly prohibits
reproductive human cloning. The charter is legally binding for the
institutions of the
European Union under the
Treaty of Lisbon
Treaty of Lisbon and for
member states of the Union implementing EU law.
India does not have specific law regarding cloning but has guidelines
prohibiting whole human cloning or reproductive cloning. India allows
therapeutic cloning and the use of embryonic stem cells for research
Human cloning is explicitly prohibited in Article 24, "Right to Life"
of the 2006 Constitution of Serbia.
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In terms of section 39A of the
Human Tissue Act 65 of 1983,
genetic manipulation of gametes or zygotes outside the human body is
absolutely prohibited. A zygote is the cell resulting from the fusion
of two gametes; thus the fertilised ovum. Section 39A thus prohibits
human cloning.they should not clone a human
On January 14, 2001 the British government passed The Human
Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001
to amend the
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 by extending
allowable reasons for embryo research to permit research around stem
cells and cell nuclear replacement, thus allowing therapeutic cloning.
However, on November 15, 2001, a pro-life group won a High Court legal
challenge, which struck down the regulation and effectively left all
forms of cloning unregulated in the UK. Their hope was that Parliament
would fill this gap by passing prohibitive legislation.
Parliament was quick to pass the
Cloning Act 2001
which explicitly prohibited reproductive cloning. The remaining gap
with regard to therapeutic cloning was closed when the appeals courts
reversed the previous decision of the High Court.
The first license was granted on August 11, 2004 to researchers at the
University of Newcastle to allow them to investigate treatments for
Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. The Human
Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, a major review of fertility
legislation, repealed the 2001
Cloning Act by making amendments of
similar effect to the 1990 Act. The 2008 Act also allows experiments
on hybrid human-animal embryos.
On December 13, 2001, the
United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly began
elaborating an international convention against the reproductive
cloning of humans. A broad coalition of States, including Spain,
Italy, the Philippines, the United States,
Costa Rica and the Holy See
sought to extend the debate to ban all forms of human cloning, noting
that, in their view, therapeutic human cloning violates human dignity.
Costa Rica proposed the adoption of an international convention to ban
all forms of human cloning. Unable to reach a consensus on a binding
convention, in March 2005 a non-binding United Nations Declaration on
Human Cloning, calling for the ban of all forms of human cloning
contrary to human dignity, was adopted.
The Patients First Act of 2017 (HR 2918, 115th Congress) aims to
promote stem cell research, using cells that are “ethically
obtained”, that could contribute to a better understanding of
diseases and therapies, and promote the “derivation of pluripotent
stem cell lines without the creation of human embryos…”.
In 1998, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009, the US Congress voted
whether to ban all human cloning, both reproductive and therapeutic
(see Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act). Each time, divisions in the
Senate, or an eventual veto from the sitting President (President
George W. Bush in 2005 and 2007), over therapeutic cloning prevented
either competing proposal (a ban on both forms or on reproductive
cloning only) from being passed into law. On March 10, 2010 a bill (HR
4808) was introduced with a section banning federal funding for human
cloning. Such a law, if passed, would not have prevented research
from occurring in private institutions (such as universities) that
have both private and federal funding. However, the 2010 law was not
There are currently no federal laws in the
United States which ban
cloning completely, and any such laws would raise difficult
constitutional questions similar to the issues raised by
abortion. Fifteen American states (Arkansas,
California, Connecticut, Iowa, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland,
Michigan, North Dakota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota,
Florida, Georgia, and Virginia) ban reproductive cloning and three
states (Arizona, Maryland, and Missouri) prohibit use of public funds
for such activities.
In popular culture
Cloning § In popular culture, and
Cloning in fiction
Science fiction has used cloning, most commonly and specifically human
cloning, due to the fact that it brings up controversial questions of
identity. Humorous fiction, such as Multiplicity (1996)
Maxwell Smart feature
The Nude Bomb
The Nude Bomb (1980), have featured
human cloning. A recurring sub-theme of cloning fiction is the use
of clones as a supply of organs for transplantation. Robin Cook's 1997
novel Chromosome 6 and Michael Bay's The Island are examples of this;
Chromosome 6 also features genetic manipulation and
xenotransplantation. There is also a series named Orphan Black
which follows human clones' stories and experiences as they deal with
issues and react to being the property of a chain of scientific
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Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Genes, Technology and Policy
"Variations and voids: the regulation of human cloning around the
world" academic article by S. Pattinson & T. Caulfield
Moving Toward the Clonal Man
Should We Really Fear Reproductive
United Nation declares law against cloning.[permanent dead link]
General Assembly Adopts United Nations Declaration on
Vote of 84-34-37
Cloning Fact Sheet