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Hand with test tubePerhaps one of the most controversial issues of the new century is that of cloning.  While scientists have been able to successfully clone animals, it remains to be seen how the genetic lineage of the subjects ill be altered. Already, we have heard reports that "Dolly", the cloned sheep, is weaker than the original, and has suffered through a series of illnesses, including arthritis. The issue of human cloning has also generated public outcry, with both left and right wing groups agreeing on a ban.

One of the most popular arguments is the possibility that in the wrong hands, cloning technology could be used to replicate malevolent individuals such as Adolph Hitler. Hollywood fantasy, or possible reality? The blockbuster hit Jurassic Park, based on the Michael Crichton novel of the same name, introduced the theory that by using genetic material from extinct animals combined with that of amphibians (the only species of vertebrates able to regenerate lost limbs), scientists would be able to bring dinosaurs back to life.

While Dino DNA could only have been extracted from blood inside mosquitoes that were preserved in amber to suit the story, it is in fact possible for us to get material from recently extinct animals to try and bring a species back. That is where science fiction ends and science fact begins.

First off, the material must be extracted from an animal that has been dead for a maximum of 5 days, or if longer, the animal must have been preserved by being frozen immediately after death to preserve its cellular integrity. 

In order to bring back a rare Asian ox, the Gaur, Scientists infused a regular cow's egg with the genetic material of a living Gaur. While the egg was accepted by Bessie the cow's immune system, the Gaur calf suffered the same fate as all of the other cloned animals, and it succumbed to illness shortly after being born.

If the technique had been successful, it could have been used to repopulate extinct species, or strengthen the ranks of those on their way to extinction.

If implanting eggs which were taken from a host animal with the DNA of another animal for the purpose of its acceptance by the host body's immune system produces similar results every time, maybe the implanted embryo's immune system fails to develop as that of a normal fetus. Perhaps by looking more closely at the immune system and its adaptability, we will understand why genetically identical clones are always inferior to the originals.



More about cloning

Extinct Animal Cloning Interactive

New Scientist Cloning FAQ

Human cloning cow gives birth to cloned bison - next monkeys and cloned humans

Cloning animals



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Last modified: March 04, 2003