Genetic Engineering


At the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, Dr. Keith Campbell, director of embryology at PPL therapeutics in Roslin, and his colleague Dr. Ian Wilmut worked together on a project to clone a sheep, Dolly, from adult cells. On February 22, 1997, they finally succeeded. Dolly was the only lamb born from 277 fusions of oocytes with udder cells. Wilmut says there were so many failures because it is difficult to ensure that the empty oocytes and the donor cell are at the same stage of the cell division cycle.

To clone Dolly, basically scientists took an unfertilized egg cell, removed the nucleus, replaced it with cells taken from the organism to be cloned, put it into an empty egg cell which begins to develop as an embryo, and implanted this embryo into a mother, from which the clone was born.

The fact that only 1 out of 277 attempts succeeded is a little scary when applied to human beings. If an attempt to clone a human led to that high of a death toll, then there would not be many supporters. According to Rifkin, in an extensive survey of all 106 clinical trials of experimental gene therapies conducted over the past five years involving more than 597 patients, a panel of experts convened by the NIG reported that "Clinical efficacy has not been definitively demonstrated at this time in any gene therapy protocol, despite anecdotal claims of successful therapy." (545). These results are also happening with people who are trying to get gene therapy. With these facts on the table, it would not be ideal to try to clone humans if cloning an animal took several hundred attempts and human gene therapy has had hundreds of failures as well.

Humans are going way beyond their limits in the field of biotechnology in the world today. Until recently, these ideas were unheard of. Now with new technology, scientists are capable of changing an organism's genetic make-up. We are very eager to learn new things, however, this eagerness gets in the way of common sense all too often. As stated in Starr and Taggart's article, "we do not have the wisdom to bring about beneficial changes without causing great harm to ourselves or to the environment." (514). However, the na?ve public may want to jump right into things, and scientists will not disagree.

Scientists are messing with things that they should not be messing with. Once again, they are overstepping their boundaries. They have barely taken the time or consideration to notice the moral and ethical dilemmas of cloning, let alone to know exactly what they are getting themselves into. The problem with the world today, is that everyone wants all these exciting things to happen without considering the consequences. New knowledge and technology is not used responsibly. It must be realized that cloning is disastrous and scientists should not do it.

Another example of scientists jumping into things too fast is nuclear fusion. When scientists first discovered the process of fusion, they did not hesitate to apply it to a destructive use. They immediately created the uncontrollable atomic bomb and some of these were actually used (World War 2). The Manhattan Project was designed to figure out how to use atomic power to kill enemies. The group of scientists was so confident in their bomb, they did not even test it; its first use was in military action when the United States bombed Hiroshima (Japan) in 1945. Soon after, the Hydrogen bomb was also created. These are a thousand times more powerful than atomic bombs.

It wasn't until much later (1954) that the world discovered the implications of these dangerous bombs. Since the first test millions of people have wondered whether nuclear weapons will spell the end of life on our planet.

As far as genetic engineering goes, it has been a part of life ever since life has existed. As different organisms mated with other organisms of their same species, they evolved to have different characteristics from each other. Even before the manipulation of actual DNA strands, scientists were able to "clone" such foods as seedless watermelons. Now that the technology has been mastered, what will be cloned next?

Clones are not likely to turn out the same as their origin. The environment plays a huge role in how genes are expressed. For example, a person's genes for a large body size may not be fully expressed if