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Animal Cloning: Pros & Cons

Animal Cloning: Pros & Cons
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  • 0:03 What Is Cloning?
  • 1:00 Animal Cloning
  • 2:14 Pros of Animal Cloning
  • 3:59 Cons of Animal Cloning
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson, we'll learn about the benefits and drawbacks of animal cloning. We'll review what cloning is and find out about animals that have been currently cloned and why.

What Is Cloning?

When you think of cloning, you might think of a scene from a sci-fi horror movie, with humans floating around in glass tubes. However, cloning is a regularly used strategy in agriculture and scientific research. Today we're going to look at the uses of animal cloning, which - although it's incredibly cool - doesn't involve any strange humans in tubes. We'll not only learn about important cloning uses but also about the potential drawbacks of cloning animals.

So, you might still be wondering, if cloning isn't an experiment by mad scientists, what is it? Cloning is the process of making organisms that are genetically identical. It's different from normal sexual reproduction, because our offspring don't have the exact same genes as us, even though we share common traits.

Animal Cloning

Although cloning might seem unnatural, many species use this as a method of normal reproduction. Plants, bacteria, and even some animals like sea stars can make genetically identical copies of themselves. The controversy of cloning comes in when humans artificially make clones of animals that normally reproduce sexually like sheep, goats, or cows.

Before we can understand the pros and cons of animal cloning, let's take a minute to refresh how animal clones are made, called somatic cell nuclear transfer. To clone an entire animal, scientists first take a cell from the animal they want to clone, like a skin cell. They extract the nucleus, which is the part of the cell where the genes are stored. They then take an egg cell and take out the existing nucleus. They implant the nucleus from the animal to be cloned and let the egg divide until it creates a mass of cells. The cells are then deposited into the uterus of a surrogate mother. The offspring develops to term and is birthed naturally. The new offspring will be genetically identical to the organism that donated the nucleus.

Pros of Animal Cloning

So, why would we need genetically identical animals? First, this strategy works well for animals that have traits humans desire, such as more muscle mass in cows for butchering or greater milk or egg production.

Second, cloned animals can actually act like a factory for medicine. Scientists can insert genes for molecules that humans need as medicine, such as insulin for diabetics, into the cloned animal. The animal then produces these molecules, which can be harvested to give to patients. The medicine-producing animal can continue to be cloned, creating an endless supply of the drugs patients need.

For example, scientists have created goats that produce a protein called antithrombin, which prevents blood clots. This is important for people who develop blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks or stroke. Sometimes, this protein is in short supply, and patients can't get the medicine they need. By producing it through goats, if more protein was needed, more goats could be cloned, preventing medication shortages.

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