That’s a really interesting question. There are actually a few kinds of cloning – beyond the cloning of an entire animal. Cloning can happen on a lot of different, smaller levels. Scientists are able to clone DNA, or of single cells. There is a good bit of research into this already. The cloning of single cells in particular is being looked into, as there are certain cell types which can be really useful in the treatment of diseases. There is a whole lot of potential with this as a medical procedure.
But if we want to talk about cloning whole animals, that’s a bit different! A few years ago, the idea of cloning an animal was totally mad…it was like something people expected to see in a science fiction movie! But now it exists as a thing in real life, thanks to the research that some scientists have done. So far a good few animals have been cloned – frogs, fish, sheep, dogs, cats, horses…the list goes on and on!
The cloning of humans is a really tricky issue. There are some scientists who think this is a really good idea, and others that think there are too many ethical issues relating to it. What I think personally, is that for now, there are too many people opposed to it for it to become standard any time soon. But I do think the cloning that goes on with individual cells will become a bit more standard, and might even change the way that some diseases are treated.
Its interesting for you to think about for yourself – what issues can you see with cloning a human? Or what benefits do you think there are? There’s a few of each, so it can be really hard to decide what is right!
I would really hope that cloning does not become normal for human medicine. Making exact copies of people artificially opens up a huge amount of questions about “designer humans” and fairness as to who is copied.
On the other hand, I think we are very close to seeing some gene-therapies be developed so that we can start either over-coming or removing both serious and relatively minor genetic defects from our genome. For example, i would love to rid my body of my genes for short-sightedness so my kids didnt have to wear glasses. I think its already too late for them, but maybe their children might be able to have repair genes put in place to put an end to glasses or laser treatment. On the other hand, much more serious diseases such as some forms of blindness might be treated using introduced genes in the near future.