Wednesday, November 02, 2011

15 years of Cloning, not the Panacea we were Told

Remains of Dolly the sheep.
Would cloning be a scientific way for a person to achieve immortality, or at least for a succession of copies of him to live for an indeterminate length of time? Fifteen years ago, a sheep named “Dolly” was cloned from the mammary-gland cell of a six year old donor. There was discussion as to whether humans were next (Anonymous 2002).

One would expect that by today, fifteen years after Dolly was cloned, the cloning of animals would have advanced far beyond Dolly’s example. Yet this is not what has happened. Notice the extended quote below taken from a recent fact sheet put out by the U.S. Government’s Genome Project web site (Anonymous, 2011):

Reproductive cloning is a very inefficient technique and most cloned animal embryos cannot develop into healthy individuals. For instance, Dolly was the only clone to be born live out of a total of 277 cloned embryos. This very low efficiency, combined with safety concerns, presents a serious obstacle to the application of reproductive cloning.

Researchers have observed some adverse health effects in sheep and other mammals that have been cloned. These include an increase in birth size and a variety of defects in vital organs, such as the liver, brain and heart. Other consequences include premature aging and problems with the immune system. Another potential problem centers on the relative age of the cloned cell’s chromosomes. As cells go through their normal rounds of division, the tips of the chromosomes, called telomeres, shrink. Over time, the telomeres become so short that the cell can no longer divide and, consequently, the cell dies.

This is part of the natural aging process that seems to happen in all cell types. As a consequence, clones created from a cell taken from an adult might have chromosomes that are already shorter than normal, which may condemn the clones' cells to a shorter life span. Indeed, Dolly, who was cloned from the cell of a 6-year old sheep, had chromosomes that were shorter than those of other sheep her age. Dolly died when she was six years old, about half the average sheep's 12-year lifespan.
Marko comments: There seems to be something very mysterious that is at work here. Cloning evidently does not work as the way to eternal life. Bible believers who understand the fall of all mankind into sin would say that the finger of God is at work here....

References (selected)

Anonymous. 2002. Class Notes: The Cloning of Dolly, 'Cc', and other Mammals (see paragraphs V and VI). IUPUI Department of Biology. Retrieved August 18, 2011 from

Anonymous. 2011. What are the potential drawbacks of cloning animals? Fact Sheets about Science: Cloning. National Human Genome Research Institute. Retrieved August 19, 2011, from

(based on Timothy R. Stout, The Testimony of Clones & Telomeres, published in Creation Matters, a publication of Creation Research Society, Volume 16, Number 4, July/August 2011, to appear at

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