Cloning is truly a monumental accomplishment. But what can we do with it? Very few see a future society of cloned humans. Mad scientists with armies of cloned zombies are highly improbable due to the current cost, failure rate, and time involved. However, there are some practical applications currently being considered. Which are possible and which are doomed to remain in the realm of science fiction? Only the future will tell.
Most Prevalent Application
What many scientists forsee as the most probable and widespread application of cloning is the mass production of genetically engineered animals. Scientists have to be very careful about protecting the altered portion of the genome; if the new/altered gene is damaged, the animal carrying the damaged gene will not be as useful to the scientists. Because natural breeding can lead to the decay of the new/altered gene, cloning is the best option, because the original DNA is used over and over to make new animals. In fact, mammalian cloning was only pursued as a step toward copying genetically altered cells.
The average dairy cow puts out roughly 15,000 gallons of milk a year. However, there are certain, special cows that can make up to 45,000 gallons a year. Selectively breeding for this trait is nearly impossible given the complexity of the genetics governing milk production. However, if scientists clone these exceptional cows, the profit gained from increased milk outweighs the money spent on a cloned cow.
While it is unlikely that the cloning of humans will ever become standard practice, it is also unlikely that it will never be attempted. Many people see cloning as a way to provide children for those couples who cannot have them naturally. While there is always someone willing and able to pay the price, is the cloning of humans morally right?
Scientists have told us that it would be virtually impossible to find an intact cell from a extinct dinosaur. However, at New Zealand's University of Otago, scientists are trying to clone the extinct moa, once the world's largest bird. The plan was to take DNA from its leg bone and implant it into a chicken egg to grow. The scientists were then going to breed the new moa with an ostrich or an emu to create a new giant bird. Research was stopped by the Ngai Tahu Maori tribe, which claims to own the DNA because they were sole owners of the land when the bird became extinct around 1500.
In 1992, a herd of cows that was damaging the ecological balance of New Zealand's Enderby Island was almost completely destroyed. All that remained was the frozen sperm of ten bulls, and one living female, Lady. Because Lady is so old, all attempts to make her pregnant using the frozen sperm have failed. Therefore, Lady was cloned. On July 31, 1998, Elsie (L.C., Lady's Clone) was delivered by Casarean section, is the hope of preserving the nearly-extinct Enderby Island cows.
Organs for Transplant
Another option open to the future is the cloning of specific organs for transplant. Each year, many people die, unable to find a suitable organ donor. In addition, those who do find donors many times have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. If scientists can find a way to force cells to differentiate to become a failing organ, they should be able to grow those cells into a working, adult organ. Because the new organ would be an exact match for the patient, there would be no need for anti-rejection drugs. Many predict that the first organ to be cloned in this way may be bone marrow, because it is a liquid organ and has no shape. However, it is conceivable that solid organs would be able to be cloned outside a body as well.