Is it worth it?
Currently there are two mainstream cloning techniques (ignoring gene cloning), the first, Reproductive cloning which as its name depicts is the technique of simply speaking, defined as “the deliberate production of genetically identical individuals” according to Sanden and Dhobb etc. (2010) of the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology information). This means that the ‘cloned’ individual will exhibit the same physical factors as the ‘original’ individual, assuming that both twins are exposed to exactly the same environmental factors, this indicates that these twins will also have the exact same DNA along with the same genes in their nuclei. Despite this, each individual will only be identical to a degree as the offspring’s mitochondrion DNA is inherited through maternal transmission (in this case the surrogate mother — particularly via recipient oocyte), this means they won’t fully be identical as their mitochondrion DNA will differ, assuming that both offspring are not from the same surrogate mother.
However, Reproductive cloning is not the topic of interest for this particular segment, instead Therapeutic cloning is. Therapeutic cloning, as the name illustrates again is used for healing and curing (if possible) a person’s disease, its development widened the door to curing a person’s disease (progressive or otherwise) or injuries through replicating an individual’s own cells and using that to treat any problems within the individual’s body.
If we were to go into the specifics, the Therapeutic cloning technique would include having to acquire a nucleus of cell from the actual patient, this nucleus can be obtained from literally any part of one’s body, except the red-blood cells, cornified cells in the skin, hair and nails. In continuance to this, the patient’s nucleus will than be transferred into an enucleated egg cell. What’s an enucleated egg cell you ask? Well, an enucleated cell, again as outlined by its name is obtained from taking out the nucleus of an egg, hopefully it’s from a donor, then this eggs’ nucleus is later discarded, that’s right an egg, anyways we’ll go into the complications of this later on. After this, the egg with the patient’s nucleus is either exposed to chemical means of stimulation or electric means (which includes shocking the egg) to stimulate the egg and kickstart its development into an embryo, and after about 4–5 days the cells from the embryo are removed and then cultured for therapeutic use (this step may take about a week or more and will require daily attention).
The purpose of culturing is to develop conditions where the stem cells will perform promoted acts of homogeneous and enhanced differentiation so as to produce functional and suitable results, like tissue (or skin). So, in simple terms it allows us the ability maintain pluripotency — a state of stem cells which could potentially be used to create any cell type in the human body — meaning it has the ability to counter various diseases and injuries within or outside a person.
Medium Formulation: Is the requirements for a cell culturing to work, and by requirements, I mean the nutritional and time factors (to state a few) needed during the culturing to complete the action successfully.
Nanotopography: Is the texture and conditions of a microenvironment of which cells experience (so, they are the surface features of which a cell experiences, these are considered to be as important as the Medium Formulation in Cell Culturing).
Now, few possible problems with in-vitro stem cell culturing is the atmospheric oxygen pressure experienced by the actual stem cells which would actually be much higher than what the stem cells would experience in vivo (inside a human body), so this increased oxygen pressure would lead stem cells to embrace their inherent toxicity (in terms of pH), and that’s not good. This increase in oxygen pressure is such a big issue primarily because, our stem cells weren’t meant to handle such high concentrations of oxygens, once oxygen goes into our body most of its concentration is lowered, so the only parts of our body with close to external oxygen levels would be our lungs, stomach and skin, as they are in direct contact with external oxygen sources. Another issue is the stem cells ability to sense physical constraints in their microenvironment and therefore provide itself with certain requirement for optimal function. According to Sanden and Dhobb etc. (2010) of the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology information), yes, the same source I used earlier, the cells can sense factors such as “rigidity, stiffness and geometry of the culture substrate” which influence the stem cell’s fate and longevity in certain potency’s, proving that nanotopography is as important as the concept of medium formulation(AKA Media Formulation).
According to Neeley (2015), the first tactic of stem cell culturing has recently become outdated, no matter how oxymoronic that sounds, due to concerns of contamination of human pathogens and a concern over mismatching tissue types between different individuals. This controversial culturing tactic is named ‘feeder cell layers’, this culturing includes the common deriving of Mouse Embryotic Fibroblasts (MEF’s), which is a type of connective tissue that produces collagen and along with other fibres found in a mouse’s embryo. Alternative to these ‘animal-derived’ feeders, one can use stem cells from human menstrual blood to create a feeder. This, however, is progressively being replaced by recombinant cytokines or growth factors.
As mentioned before, stem cells for regenerative medicine — particularly therapeutic cloning is a controversial issue ethically speaking, the reason for this is the fact that in order to acquire that enucleated egg, we may actually be killing a possible offspring by removing the eggs nucleus, a possible person may die every time we attempt therapeutic cloning. So, it leads society to question whether it is worth murdering a possible individual for a person who is suffering from certain injuries or diseases. The reason this can become so debated is because there really are multiple perspectives for this practise, sure a possible person can die, but at the same time can we consider an egg a person, I mean sure, it could become a living individual, but legally-speaking (despite this, it is still banned in some countries’ cities) does an unborn individual even have rights until they become, well, alive. Furthermore, there’s also the perspective of the living individual who can feel pain, has connections and above all could have sustained injuries due to unfortunate circumstances, like, maybe sacrificing themselves in a war or protecting their loved one’s or just an ordinary bloke walking down a street hit by, I don’t know, a car or a bullet (you wouldn’t believe how likely someone would be to get hit by a stray bullet in certain countries — developed or undeveloped — no offence to certain developed countries but maybe get some gun laws in place!). Either way, nobody deserves to experience first-hand or on the side-lines as friends or family the pain of seeing someone, for a lack of a better word (in the moment), crippled by a series of unfortunate events. So, you can probably understand why this became so controversial. However, in the midst of this, there are some fine points, one of which I didn’t state was the fact that enucleated eggs must be received with permission from the host, with them having been informed of the process of which their eggs will endure — it’s up to you what you do with something that’s part of your body. Before you criticise me, I want to say, just to make sure, that when I say you can do what you want, I mean, anything goes as long as it is within the rules and laws placed on society, seriously there’s a reason for these, for order, other than that, and to simplify, do whatever floats your boat.
Another ethical issue is the high mortality rate of these eggs, in addition to the last issue, this one makes the lives lost for therapeutic purposes seem almost worthless, leading many including governments to disregard therapeutic cloning due to its lack of ability to show results without wasting resources and time. So, I guess one could say the problems outweigh the benefits in this specific scenario.
With that out of the way, there are also sadly some social issues as well, including the prospect of false hope — why give people false hope, knowing that the technology is still developing, I mean, I get it, human trials are required but shouldn’t you at least understand more sustainable methods to engage the production of stem cells or at least test it out on minor issues before moving to more complex and less proven ones. Then, there’s the exploitation of some patients for huge sums of money for using this technology, despite having no guarantee, in addition to the immense amount of privacy that commercial clinics (most of them are commercial — at least the one’s studying and applying this technique of cloning) in terms of their patients review or feedback regarding the success status of the treatments.
So, with this in mind and by this, I mean the ethical and social factors, it’s no wonder people are torn to different sides of a fence, without any clear knowledge of this technology why should it blindly be used. However, it’s also correct that this technology could give life, and for some, it may be worth the risk if it means they can live their life out normally. Ultimately, it’s your opinion that matters, and at the same time we should allow those who want to undergo this technology — from its consenting egg ‘harvesting’ to its use as regenerative medicine. So, let’s be open minded, and maybe in the future we’ll find more sustainable methods to ‘harvest’ these pluripotent stem cells along with better culturing methods. This technology has the ability to save lives, so let’s not criminalise it directly.
Boudewijn Van Der Sanden, Mehdi Dhobb, François Berger, and Didier Wion (2010). Optimizing Stem Cell Culture. NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology information). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3348118/ [Accessed on 7th October 2021]
No Author (n.d.). Cell Division. BBC Bitesize. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zs8y4qt/revision/7#:~:text=Therapeutic%20cloning%20could%20produce%20stem,be%20transferred%20to%20the%20patient. [Accessed on 7th October 2021]
Charlotte Kfoury (2007). Therapeutic cloning: Promises and issues. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2323472/ [Accessed on 8th October 2021]
Shikha Goyal (2019). Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC): Meaning, Function and Significance. Retrieved from: https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/induced-pluripotent-stem-cells-ipsc-1550750764-1 [Accessed on 8th October 2021]
Davis (n.d.) Minimal media (Davis formulation). Retrieved from: https://sharebiology.com/minimal-media-davis-formulation/#gs.dnjd33 [Accessed on 9th October 2021]
Lin Shi, Kai Wang and Yong Yang (2016). Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0927776516305859 [Accessed on 9th October 2021]
Cindy Neeley (2015). A fresh look at culturing stem cells. Retrieved from: https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/cellculture/a-fresh-look-at-culturing-stem-cells/ [Accessed 9th October 2021]