Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Improving Human Race through the science of Eugenics

Eugenics seeks the genetic improvement of the human race through selection. This idea became more prominent in the beginning of the 20th century and had another great push during World War II. One of Hitler's main objectives was the purification of the Aryan race.

According to the theory of evolution, developed by Charles Darwin in 1859, more "fit" individuals are capable of leaving a larger number of offspring. However, less fit individuals tend to leave fewer descendants. Therefore, over many generations, genes of less adapted or "inferior" individuals are gradually eliminated from the population. Darwin called this process natural selection.

Due to the use of medicines and improved medical procedures in the last few centuries, man has evaded natural selection. A classic example is the Cesarean section procedure for childbirth. Women that would otherwise die from natural childbirth can now produce offspring. Therefore, today, genes for body shape that prevent natural deliveries are retained in the population.

Natural selection for this trait still exists in indigenous populations that do not have access to modern medicine, but this is the exception and not the rule. In some way, less adapted people with low physical resistance, predisposition for genetic diseases, and so on, continue to leave offspring with the help of modern medical resources. How many of us would not be here if medical resources were not available?

Proponents of eugenics argue that the human species is accumulating bad genes because man has a slow natural selection. Others argue that people need a license for many activities, such as driving, hunting, and fishing, but not to procreate, and therefore the government should also control procreation. In China and India, the government regulates population growth. This is a quantitative and not qualitative control. Some people argue that there is sexual discrimination in those two countries, and that boys tend to be preferred because they can bring larger revenue for their family.

The next 20 years will bring many changes in human behavior, and one can imagine that a revolution could take place that will transform the world. Comparing the world today and that of 50 years ago, no one would think that eugenics could be an issue again. Some of the most despicable human acts were performed in the name of the Aryan race purification. Until 1945, eugenics was taught in many important universities around the world, and the compulsory sterilization of inferior people was relatively common in several countries. There are reports of sterilization of 20,000 people in the United States, 45,000 in England, and 250,000 in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. Eugenics turned public opinion against government intervention in citizens' reproductive choice, and today, compulsory sterilization is only conceivable in the minds of fanatic eugenists. However, with world overpopulation and a growing shortage of resources, many people are afraid that population controls could become a reality again.

Currently, it is difficult to imagine that collective sterilization would be used again, but as genetic tests become routine, it is feared that a new wave of sterilization and abortion could take place, not because of mandatory enforcement, but because of pressure resulting from genetic counseling. Abortion based on genetic counseling is already a reality in countries where it is legal. However, is it right to discriminate against genetic defects or weaknesses, even if it is in the womb? Isn't life just as precious? History has shown that the memory of people is short and that history is cyclical.

With an uncertain future ahead, it seems opportune to recognize that genetic tests and new forms of human reproduction will be part of society from now on. In this scenario, the best alternative seems to be drawing strength from family and moral and religious principles.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bioethics

Imagine what hapens when human cloning becomes a reality

Although human cloning has not been done yet, it is believed that it will happen in a matter of time. Since the Dolly sheep cloning in 1997 by Dr. Ian Wilmut at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, the technique has been advanced with many other mammals (monkeys, cows, cats, pigs, etc.). Many countries, however, are passing laws that forbid human cloning. However, some research groups, mainly in infertility clinics, have indicated their interest in human cloning. Although it is technically possible to clone humans, there are several scientific reasons for not doing so.

Beyond the risks for the pregnant mother and for the clone, a series of ethical issues has been raised in relation to human cloning:

1) Would clones have a soul?
2) How would clones relate in a family setting or in public settings?
3) What would be the limits of paternity and social responsibility to clones?

Some ethicists would argue that cloning violates a child's right to an open future. A cloned child would feel the pressure to become similar to his or her biological donor.

Ethical issues will be raised as society discusses and understands the implications of human cloning. Consider, for example, that human cloning was a reality today.

In this scenario a child could have a variable number of parents, from just one to as many as five:
1) One parent: This would be the case when a woman has been cloned, serving as the egg donor, the donor of somatic cells, and the surrogate mother.
2) Five parents: This would happen when the clone has the following parents:
a) Biological father (somatic cell donor)
b) Biological mother (egg donor)
c) Social father (adoptive)
d) Social mother (adoptive)
e) Surrogate mother

Cloning is a great challenge for society, and moral values certainly will deeply change in the 21st century.

Finally, as humans are not just biological beings, biotechnology should consider its limits on the basis of spiritual values. For example, religious conversions produce profound behavior transformation without any genetic modification. This fact reinforces the idea that human behavior is not just a matter of genes or the environment in which the individual develops. An individual, despite possessing superior genes, can be arrogant and behave irresponsibly in relation to society.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bioethics

Can we have our privacy in the era of Genetic advancements

Privacy and confidentiality are one of our most valued possessions. Soon, it might not be possible to hide from society our weaknesses, limitations, and genetic deficiencies. The individuality of each human being is being unmasked.

The completion of the first version of the Human Genome Project, announced in February 2001, unveiled the genomic sequence of the almost 3.2 billion letters of our chromosomes. This announcement also generated discomfort and fear. The revelations of the deficiencies and predispositions coded by human gene sequences are an unsettling idea for many people. The knowledge of the human genome sequence will make possible the diagnosis of several diseases even before their onset. The association between genes and genetic diseases not only affects patients, but it also raises legal and economic issues for society.

In some countries, like Great Britain, the population of some regions has voluntarily donated DNA samples for establishing a genomic database for criminal use. In that country, the ethical perception is that DNA donation for genomic databases is not an invasion of an individual's privacy. In the United States, the situation is completely the opposite: The great majority of the population has a much stronger sense of individuality and so opposes the idea of genetically exposing themselves. However, some genomic databases have been made mandatory in the United States, such as the one at the FBI. In some states, inmates involved in sexual crimes, murders, and other violent crimes have been required to have their DNA profile included in genomics databases. The fear of many people in relation to the loss of their genetic privacy is that the DNA information could be used for discrimination in employment situations or for health and life insurance.

Some geneticists believe that a DNA profile will not only be used to solve crimes, but also to prevent them. They argue that violence is a genetically transmitted trait. Dutch scientists studied a family in the Netherlands with male individuals with outstanding rates of aggressiveness and rape over five generations. The men were found to carry a genetic defect that causes a deficiency of the enzyme serotonin in their brains. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter related to behavior, humor, and personality in humans. Perhaps this is evidence for the existence of genes associated with violence and other antisocial behavior.

A correlation has also been found between atypical levels of serotonin and dopamine with violent behavior and suicide in different studies. The levels of the neurotransmitter are regulated by genetic and environmental factors as well as the interaction between the two factors. The environment is a broad term referring to nongenetic factors contributing to the trait of interest. This can include upbringing, relationships, lifestyle, and other less tangible influences on behavior or health. Current attempts to link violence to genes are more sophisticated and are applied to individual cases and not to population groups. It is believed that, in the near future, genes for violence or dishonesty will be identified, just like the genes related to cancer and other diseases. In reality, even if all the complex human traits like intelligence, violence, honesty, anxiety, and friendliness are mapped and sequenced, they will remain misunderstood for a long time because the understanding of the human mind is still so limited.

Even if the existence of a gene for violence were confirmed, would it be ethically correct to label a child as prone to violence? Would the simple knowledge of that information alter the isolation patterns of society in relation to a carrier of that gene, inducing him or her to become violent? It should be recognized that the manifestation of most traits results not only from genes, but also environmental influence during an individual's life.

Today there are genetic tests for the detection of genes that predispose an individual to the following diseases: sickle cell anemia, Down's syndrome, Huntington's disease, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, colon cancer, breast cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis. The number of diseases for which genetic tests are available continues to grow.

The inclusion of genetic tests results in information on an individual's medical record that could have serious effects in his or her life. Health or life insurance companies might refuse coverage for medical treatments under the allegation of a pre-existing condition. Today, pre-existing conditions only apply to diseases that have already been manifest in the individual; in the future, this might be extended to include the presence of genetic factors linked to specific medical conditions.

Large corporations routinely request intelligence and personality tests for prospective employees. Some people fear that, in the near future, genetic tests will be routinely requested prior to employment. Today, some companies already use genetic tests to identify employees who are sensitive to chemical products used in the work environment. Those companies have argued that the genetic tests are used only to protect their employees from risks related to work, and obviously, to eliminate the risk of being sued for damages in the future. According to the companies, they do not use genetic tests for selection purposes. In the future, companies could opt to increase the number of genetic tests that are mandatory for recruitment. Such tests might reveal personality patterns and could possibly be used for discriminatory means.

Biotechnology has opened the door to our lives, and questions of genetic privacy still remain to be answered. It is now possible to know more about our genetic makeup, but is that necessarily good? This raises many questions about the use of the enormous amount of information that has been made available.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bioethics

Genetic Engineering & Bioethiocs

Science has proven that DNA is the basis of heredity in nearly all living creatures. It is unusual to think that the same molecules that make a fungus a living creature are also similar for human life. The science of genetics has even found gene sequence coding for specific enzymes and proteins that are virtually identical in humans, plants, and microorganisms. Experiments have shown that genes from one species can be manipulated and expressed in another species.

With the advances from biotechnology in agriculture, medicine, and other areas, genes from highly diverse organisms have been transformed into other species to obtain the expression of a certain trait. An often-cited example is again that of Bt corn. A gene from a soil-borne bacterium was engineered into corn to provide resistance to a devastating insect species. For many, this is not ethically wrong, but others find inherent problems in the use of genes across species. It is a basic issue with the science of biotechnology: whether or not our knowledge of DNA and genetics should allow us to manipulate organisms that are not naturally compatible. Many believe that such genetic manipulation is beyond the realms of responsible and moral science. Does such DNA manipulation change the inherent properties of corn or any other organism, or does biotechnology serve to expand the frontiers of life?

This question is one of the basic ethical arguments behind biotechnology and is actually just the beginning of the many ethical questions that can be directed at this science. Despite arguments about the moral justifications of basic genetic engineering, scientists continue to develop products using advanced methods of gene manipulation. However, many cultures and traditions might be affected by such engineering techniques. For instance, those of the Jewish faith abstain from the use of pork, as it is traditionally considered unclean. What would be the ethical implications of using swine genes in a medicine, plant, or other product? Would it compromise the faith of one who abstains from pork? Such examples can be expanded to include many other scenarios in which this encounter of science with tradition could occur. The issue leads to the questioning of many long-held traditions and beliefs. Perhaps life is simpler than previously thought, and advances in genetics and biotechnology allow us to understand how life is simply contained in the ordered chemistry of DNA. This leads to the importance of public awareness of the applications of biotechnology and must also be included in a debate about ethical implications related to this expanding science.

Finallly where do we move from here?
The fine line between right and wrong, or between ethically acceptable and ethically unacceptable behavior, is a tremendous part of bioethics. If it were possible to define those limits or present a rule of thumb to guide ethically correct decisions, it would certainly be mentioned here. However, it seems that many of the ethical cases related to biotechnology have no clear right or wrong and should be judged on an individual basis. Ethical considerations relating to the many facets of biotechnology should not be something that is only discussed at a company board meeting or within the committee rooms of governing organizations. Many of these new technologies will affect everyone in the near future, and it is important to recognize the many considerations involved in biological sciences. Biotechnology is advancing and making progress on the major factors that limit the lives of billions of people. Solutions to the problems of hunger, disease, pollution, and others are being found using the science of biotechnology, yet many are apprehensive about the technology or fear the technical nature of the science.

Despite the greatest efforts, balanced arguments that will satisfy everyone are impossible to find. The first step for anyone is to become educated in the background, the science, and the applications of biotechnology. It is then important to be informed about how biotechnology affects the risks, benefits, and moral implications associated with superior health care, enhanced crop production, and environmental improvement. This knowledge must be used to make informed and sound judgments, so that opinions are based on fact and study, and not on emotion, hype, or fear. Ultimately, each individual must take the essential steps to understand biotechnology.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bioethics

Know the Therapeutic Cloning

Most people and the scientific media were surprised with the publication of the article "The First Human Cloned Embryo" in the magazine Scientific American in November 2001. Even the most optimistic followers believed that experiences with human cloning would not produce results so early. ACT, a small biotechnology company in Massachusetts, was the first to accomplish the cloning of human cells for therapeutic use. Dr. Michael West, the company's chief executive officer, emphatically stated that his company's objective was research in cloning for exclusively therapeutic treatments and not for reproductive or human cloning purposes. Nevertheless, the public had a strong reaction to this news.

Those who favor the use of embryonic stem cells tend to see the potential to cure genetic problems, and they emphasize the hope of a cure and improved lives for patients with fatal genetic diseases. Opponents recognize that human life begins at conception, and they believe that the price of a cure should not result in the taking of another life, as harvesting embryonic stem cells for this research results in the destruction of embryos. Therefore, embryonic stem cells can be seen as a matter of life by those who can benefit from this technology, or as a matter of death by those who do not agree with the sacrifice of embryos for the production of stem cells.

This is not an easy debate. Imagine a case in which the only hope of cure for a young mother with two small children is the use of embryonic stem cell therapy. Even if this mother's dramatic situation might suggest that it would be ethical to sacrifice a mass of frozen cells stored in liquid nitrogen to obtain the needed stem cells for the therapy, the point that deserves to be addressed is this: Who would have the right to sacrifice a defenseless life (embryo) to save another (adult individual)?

The use of stem cells from bone marrow, umbilical cord, and other parts of the adult human body has not generated as much controversy. The potential benefits from stem cell therapy have been widely discussed. However, the use of embryonic stem cells has raised heated debates in public and scientific arenas. These cells are usually harvested from spare embryos generated through in vitro fertilization that have not been implanted in prospective mothers. Even if the scientist that uses stem cells were not responsible for producing them, he or she would be aiding in this process by creating a demand that results in the destruction of embryos, being an accomplice in the process. This is the same rationale used by the governments that burn ivory confiscated from smugglers, as well as the refusal of the scientific community to use the knowledge generated by the Nazis in the horrific human experiments conducted at the concentration camps during World War II.

This and many other recent discoveries in biotechnology have been occupying the world media. Although the scientific bases for cloning are easy to understand, the greater challenge for society is to address its ethical issues.

The lack of ethical references and the speed of development of new knowledge have exposed the society's lack of readiness to address current ethical issues. Sometimes society fears a technology with great potential benefits; other times it is apathetic about technology with proven negative impacts. Individualism and relativist morale, ideals in fashion in this postmodern society, are fertile ground for justifiable mistakes. These ideologies emphasize that nobody should deny anything to himself or herself that is good unless it is especially harmful to his or her neighbor. The ethical boundaries of society reflect the moral principles that it possesses. Society is dynamic and so are its ethical values. This doesn't mean, however, that the principles within society should develop in a liberal way.

Humans were created with intelligence and this allows them to develop new technologies and expand science. Along with this intelligence they have the freedom to choose between good and bad.

Why should one not be in favor of the evolution of the human race? What are the limits of what is morally acceptable? Any answer that deserves consideration should address the dilemmas of society in light of its principles, morals, and religious beliefs. These are some of the challenges society must deal with.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Cloning

Problems encountered during Cloning

There are two major problems or limitations found in the cloning of mammals. First, following the introduction of the donor's nucleus into the egg, it must be reimplanted into a gestating surrogate mother. Most of the implanted eggs abort, forcing scientists to perform several implantations, in the hopes that at least one of the females will have normal gestation. In the case of amphibians (e.g., toads), the development of the embryo occurs outside of the adult's body, thereby facilitating the development of the fetus.

The second major challenge in animal cloning is the size of the fetus at birth. Most of the surrogate mothers have to deliver via Cesarean section. This is especially true in bovines, as the clones tend to be about twice as big as normal newborn calves. The large size of the fetus during gestation can represent a substantial risk for the surrogate mother. Additionally, clones tend to have a high incidence of birth defects, and many clones die in the first hours following birth. Common abnormalities observed in cloned animals include failures of the kidney, heart, circulatory system, liver, and lungs. In addition, the placenta of the surrogate mother does not always function properly during gestation.

The causes of the high abortion rate and abnormalities in clones are still not completely understood, but it is suspected that they are at least partially the result of the complexity of the genetic reprogramming that takes place in the genes from the donor that are inserted into the egg. If a gene is expressed inadequately or it is not expressed at a critical point in development, the result can be a developmental defect. Genetic reprogramming involves the regulation of thousands of genes in a systematic and orderly way. Any asynchrony in the expression of the genes can contribute to defects in the fetus or even result in abortion. Additionally, when cloning is done with nuclei from somatic cells, they bear any preexisting mutations that might have occurred after the cells had differentiated into specialized cells. These mutations would have otherwise been screened out in gametogenesis.

With the current knowledge and technology, mammalian cloning is still a highly unsafe and inefficient procedure. The expectation is that, as new knowledge is generated from more experience, the main limitations in cloning will be at least partially solved. This science is continuing to make progress worldwide, even in developing counties. For example, in Brazil, Embrapa-Cenargen recently pioneered the cloning of the first bovine calf from somatic cells, born in March 2001.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Cloning

Understanding of Basics of Cloning

A clone can be defined as an individual or group of individuals that descend, through asexual reproduction, from a single individual. In other words, a clone is an exact copy of the original individual. Humans have practiced cloning of plant species for thousands of years. A leaf, a piece of stem, or root of a certain plant placed in a pot with soil or in a petri dish with tissue culture media can regenerate a new individual, genetically identical (clone) to the plant from which the leaf, stem, or root piece was taken. Today, cloning is a common agricultural practice used in many species that can easily reproduce asexually, such as sugar cane, banana, citrus, potato, strawberry, many grasses, roses, and many tree crops.

Cloning is based on two principles:
1) All cells of any organism contain the complete genetic makeup of the species.
2) Totipotence, the ability of one cell to differentiate and regenerate a completely new individual

Although the regeneration of a complete plant from a somatic tissue (leaf, root, stem, etc.) is an ancient practice, it was only in the 1950s that biologists discovered the principles behind regeneration of whole individuals from a single cell. Unlike animal cells, most plant cells retain their potential to express any of their genes and therefore are able to repeat the developmental processes involved in regenerating complete individuals. Cloning of plants offers the possibility of developing millions of individuals exactly identical to the original source of the regenerated cells. This is a common method of reproduction in asexual plant species.

Most animal cells do not have that same capability of naturally regenerating a complete individual from a cell. In animals, this potential is lost during cell specialization. A specific class of cells called stem cells is the only cell type known to retain their totipotence. Stem cells can be found in marrow tissue, fat tissue, and developing embryos. These types of cells have been the focus of animal cloning efforts. In animals, cloning can be accomplished using the technique called nuclear transplant. The technique has been used for many years in animal cloning using embryonic cells for amphibians such as toads. Animal embryonic cells maintain their totipotence after the first few cellular divisions. As the embryo continues its development, the cells lose their ability to differentiate into other cells and, consequently, the capability for complete regeneration ceases quickly. Contrary to the relative ease of nuclear cell transfer in amphibians, this process is much more complex in mammals. Although cloning of toads was accomplished for the first time in 1952, cloning of mice using the same technique was not accomplished until 1977.

Cloning using nuclear transfer involves the manipulation of two cells. The recipient cell is usually a nonfertilized egg from a female taken soon after ovulation. Harvesting of these eggs is done by laparoscopy or by transvaginal suction. The donor cell, which is the one providing the genetic material for regenerating the clone, is collected from the individual to be copied. Any somatic cell could be used for the purpose, including cells from the skin, mammary glands, or mucous membranes. Under a microscope, the recipient cell (egg) is held, by suction, at the end of a pipette. With an extremely fine micropipette, the chromosomes are removed. At this point the nucleus from the donor cell is then fused with the recipient egg previously deprived of its chromosomes. Some of the cells, if implanted into the uterus of a surrogate mother, start developing into an embryo and eventually a fetus. The procedure involves the removal or destruction of the chromosomes from the recipient egg cell, and the subsequent introduction of the chromosomes from the donor cell. The egg, with the newly introduced genetic material, begins the developmental process in the uterus of a surrogate mother to form a complete individual, genetically identical to the donor that supplied the nucleus. This technique has been used with success for cloning sheep, cattle, mice, monkeys, and other mammals.

The first cloned mammal from somatic cells of an adult donor was the sheep Dolly, born in February 1997. Dolly was cloned using mammary cells from an adult sheep. This widely covered event occurred at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, and the lead scientist was Dr. Ian Wilmut.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Cloning

Why Human Cloning is Undesirable?

There is a series of scientific reasons for not cloning human beings. Although many scientists and most of the public share this point of view, it is feared that personal ambition of unscrupulous scientists would make them blind to the scientific reasons for not cloning man. The success in animal cloning is evidence that this technology might be ready to justify its application to humans. In 2000, Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, an Israeli specialist in in vitro fertilization, and Dr. Severino Antinori, an Italian specialist in reproductive physiology, announced their intention to clone humans. In April 2002, Antinori claimed that he had two women carrying cloned babies.

After the birth of Dolly and the successful cloning of mice, cattle, monkeys, goats, and pigs, it is evident that cloning is not a completely safe procedure. Cloning of mammals is considered highly inefficient, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Many cloning experiments have resulted in developmental flaws either during gestation or in the neonatal period. Even in the best cases, only a small percentage of cloned embryos survive to birth and, of those, many die shortly after birth. There is no reason to believe this would be any different with humans. This means that to achieve the successful generation of a human clone, many others will have been sacrificed in the developmental phases.

The few animal clones that have survived and been born show abnormal size, a phenomenon called increased offspring syndrome. It is believed that incorrect functioning of the placenta is one of the main causes of embryonic death. The suspected causes of newborn death are respiratory and circulatory problems. Some seemingly healthy survivors might possess immune system dysfunction or kidney and brain malformation. Those problems have been detected in practically all species in which cloning has been accomplished. Therefore, if an attempt to clone a human is made, the concern is not just with the embryos, but also with those that will live to be abnormal children and adults.

The abnormalities in the fetuses and in those few clones that are born alive cannot be easily traced to the nucleus of the donor. The most probable explanations are flaws in the genetic reprogramming or timing and expression of the correct developmental genes. Normal development depends on a necessary sequence of changes in the configuration of DNA and proteins coded by developmental genes. Those developmental changes control the specific genetic expression in the specialized tissues.

Genetic reprogramming of the entire genome is a natural process that happens during spermatogenesis and oogenesis, which can span over months and years in humans. During cloning, reprogramming of the donor's DNA must be done within minutes or, at the most, in a few short hours, during the period of time that nuclear transfer is completed and cell division begins to form the zygote.

Prenatal mortality in clones can occur due to inadequate reprogramming that results in improper gene expression. Some surviving clones have subtle genetic defects that, over time, result in life-threatening conditions. There is no information on genetic regulation in clones, but some evidence seems to indicate errors in gene expression in cloned animals. The expression of marked genes is significantly altered when embryos are cultivated in vitro before they are implanted in the uterus, indicating that even a minimal disturbance of the embryo's environment can have profound effects on gene regulation during development.

All the current evidence now suggests that the experiments on human cloning announced by Zavos and Antinori will have the same failure rates and occurrences of abnormalities that have been detected in animal cloning. Zavos tried to calm the public, informing them their research would use genetically perfect embryos to be implanted as a quality control. However, the public perception of reproductive biotechnology will be seriously damaged if the research fails and defective babies are born from human cloning experimentation. This would likely negatively affect other areas of research, such as the advancements being made with stem cells.

The National Bioethical Advisory Commission in the United States reached the following conclusion six years ago: "At the present, the use of cloning to generate a child would be a premature experiment, and would expose the fetus and the child in development to unacceptable risks." All the data gathered since seems to reinforce this point of view. In many countries, it is unlawful to perform research with human reproductive cells, thereby forbidding embryonic cloning.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Cloning

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is Human Cloning Possible?

After the cloning experience of Dolly the sheep, human cloning is theoretically and technically possible. The procedure would consist of taking an egg, removing its chromosomes, and then fusing it with a somatic cell from the individual to be cloned. Some believe that it is inevitable that some scientist will try to clone humans, if it is not already occurring. There seems to be a consensus that within a few years the news of the birth of the first human clone will be the major headline in the media. Scientists in South Korea reported success in creating a cloned human embryo, but it was destroyed instead of being implanted in a surrogate mother. Even if the first human clone is decades from birth, the idea that scientists are secretly trying to do it is a real possibility.

Scientists with an economic interest in this science have been expressing their viewpoint that it would be ethically acceptable to clone human beings. They argue that an embryo up to 10 days after fertilization cannot be considered a life because development of the brain begins at about 14 days after fertilization. It would be interesting to know how those scientists define the ethical limits in relation to their objectives.

It has been assumed by some that human cloning serves only the interests of the narcissists or neo-Nazis, those who would like to create the perfect race. In fact, several scenarios have been created that justify cloning of the Homo sapiens "animal." Some of those scenarios can seem extremely appealing, but an ethical analysis of the dilemmas that clones, their relatives, and society would face during their life indicates that cloning of the most intelligent and rational of the animals is not politically, socially, or religiously acceptable.

Some of the following scenarios show the complexity of the subject:

1) Consider the situation of a homosexual man who feels frustrated with his incapacity to bear children and wants to be cloned.

2) Consider the couple that wants to have a baby, but the husband is sterile. Assuming that cloning is an alternative, the couple could decide to clone the husband, and the wife could contribute as a surrogate mother. Would the child's responses to education differ though he is genetically identical to his father? Would he have the same tastes and preferences as the husband? What if a divorce occurs? How would the mother see her son, who is a copy of the man from whom she is divorced? Would the father have the right to custody of the child because he is genetically related to his father?

3) In another scenario, where a woman gives birth to her own clone, would she be her child's mother or twin sister with a different age?

Obviously, society changes over time. In vitro fertilization was illegal in many countries until about 20 years ago, and the idea of heart transplants was considered immoral in the past. Public opinion on human cloning will probably change in the next few years, but cloning will likely be banned globally before the birth of the first human clone. It would be a terrible mistake to wait until the birth of a baby with genetic defects before that decision is reached. Current experience with animals shows that this technology has too many technical and ethical problems to justify experimentation in humans.

Ethicists are concerned that clones would be considered inferior to human beings, and they would be subject to the limitations and expectations of the knowledge of the copied person. These expectations could be false, as both genetic factors and the environment determine personality. For example, a clone of an extroverted person could be more introverted, depending on his or her upbringing. Clones of athletes, artists, scientists, and politicians could choose different professional careers based on opportunities and the environment in which they are raised.

Predicting the future of human cloning is not an easy task. History shows that society is dynamic, that ethical values change, and moral principles distort over time. In other words, only time will tell. The challenge for bioethicists is to keep science progressing while maintaining the sanctity of life. It is a mistake to think that genetically identical means identical individuals. In the 1978 movie The Boys of Brazil, based on Ira Levin's bestseller, a scientist conspires after World War II to clone Hitler, with the objective of raising a new generation of Nazi leaders. The film shows that without intense indoctrination, the clones can be influenced to pursue other activities than becoming dictators.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Cloning