Common Myths and Misconceptions
The average person is not privy to the ins and outs of stem cell research, and it is from the lack of general knowledge that most of the misconceptions about stem cell research and cloning come. Please continue reading as some of these myths and misconceptions are dispelled.
Misconception: “Therapeutic cloning”—cloning for the express purpose of developing donor organs—does not involve the creation of human embryos.
Reality: Therapeutic cloning does require the creation of a blastocyst, which is considered by some to be a human embryo.
Therapeutic cloning, also known as cell replacement through nuclear transfer, or CRNT, is a misleading term when stacked against the phrase “reproductive cloning”. Whereas it is clear that the end result of “reproductive cloning” is the production of a human embryo, many people are under the impression that in “therapeutic cloning” scientists create only the organs that are to be used.
The President’s Council on Bioethics suggests that in order to combat this outright falsity, the phrases “cloning for biomedical research” and “cloning to produce children” be used instead of “therapeutic” and “reproductive” cloning, respectively.
Myth: People who are against the cloning of human embryos are against any and all forms of stem cell research.
Reality: Scientists are still performing research on stem cells from other sources, such as adult tissues, placenta, and umbilical cords. This research is for the most part an ethical non-issue because no human embryos or blastocysts are created or destroyed.
Misconception: Clones will be a 'carbon copy' of the original.
Reality: Cloning is an alternative way of creating an embryo, not a way of copying a fully developed organism. That embryo, once created, is just that: an embryo. Some people fear that 'mad scientists' will recreate such historical figures as Hitler and Stalin. While it is possible, if the scientist had adequate DNA from either man, for a scientist to create someone with matching DNA, the clone would not be the same 'person'--their consciousness would be entirely different than anyone they could have been cloned from.
Also consider the case of Rainbow and CC. CC, which stands for Carbon Copy, was the very first cloned cat. Although CC is an exact genetic copy of Rainbow, each cat has very distinct colorations on their coats. The reason for this is in the X chromosome, which contains a gene that helps determine fur colorations. Because they have the same X chromosomes, each cat has the same two coat color genes--one for black and one for orange. But early in Rainbow's life, each of her cells "turned off" either an entire black or orange color gene. This is called "X-inactivation", and is a very common occurance in female cats. X-inactivation is how calico cats such as Rainbow develop their complex markings. The specific somatic cell that was used to create CC contained an active black color gene and an inactive orange color gene. As CC developed, her cells stayed exactly the same as that initial one. The result is CC's notable lack of any orange markings.
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