June 3, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Series on scientific & bioethics leaders discussing human reproductive cloning

human cloningIn the coming weeks and months, I am going to run a series of posts (some interviews, some guest posts) on human reproductive cloning. This is the kind of cloning where you take a person (living or dead) such as, let’s say Lady GaGa or Jesus, and you try to make a duplicate new human being. I’ve posted on it before.

In my view, human reproductive cloning is a very real possibility in coming years, whether it is based on somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) or induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology.

Wait, iPS cell technology could potentially be used to clone people?

Yep.

Hypothetically iPS cell technology could be used to produce cloned people from eggs and sperm made from any person matched up with a natural sperm or egg sample or even from one single person. Thus, for example, from one man, scientists could in theory create  eggs from iPS cells, do IVF with the man’s own sperm, and make cloned babies of that man. Same deal from one woman using her natural eggs and sperm made from her iPS cells.

Would it work and produce “healthy” offspring?

Who knows, but in theory it could.

Whether via SCNT or iPS cell technology, there is currently no law to prevent someone from trying to make human clones. It’s not illegal.

Cloning is super risky, but I don’t believe that would deter people from trying it in a quest for fame/infamy and a place in history books or in a crazy stab at immortality. In fact, some unusual folks (the Raëliansalready produced a fake cloning story for dubious motives (see below) about a decade ago and most people at the time seemed to think it was true. Turns out that my good friend Bernie Siegel sprung into action back then and made a huge, positive difference in this area by petitioning to be the guardian for the alleged cloned baby Eve, exposing the company Clonaid as a sham.

Raëlian

Fast forward a decade and technology has made “real” human cloning all the more likely. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if human reproductive cloning has already been tried and failed many times just in the last few years. I shudder to think of the consequences of those failed attempts.

I hope human cloning never happens and as you’ll see in this series, some very smart folks think it far less likely to become a reality than I do, but we need to be talking more about it and thinking more about it. This is the motivation for the series to come.

Stay tuned and join the discussion.

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