Global biological research had turned a new page when researchers at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, cloned the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly, in 1996.
Global biological research had turned a new page when researchers at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, cloned the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly, in 1996. Twenty-two years after, China has cloned twin primates, using a combination of new techniques. But the two identical long-tailed macaques present more problems than cloning of the sheep. The Chinese research is, no doubt, of significant academic value, and human clones haven’t been around—at least not as far as we know of—for the past 22 years. But, with the Chinese, given their thick veils of secrecy regarding scientific research, there are always concerns regarding ethical violations. Recall the outrage Chinese scientist had sparked when they claimed to have edited DNA in human embryos—all our worst fears of gene-editing giving rise to designer baby factories had seemed come true.
That is, until the Chinese backed down—at least, publicly. The ethics-questions are not just being raised by loony religious groups and human rights activists, but have also become a dilemma for many in the scientific community: Should mankind go down the road to creating human clones. More important, what would be the use of such clones if this does happen? It may seem all too sci-fi, but rich patrons can use clones for organ-harvesting in a quest to enhance life. More important, even if we remain restricted to primates, should we be testing on them, given concerns about animal testing and the resultant bans in many jurisdictions? A simple solution, thus, can be for countries to come together and discuss the ethics of biological innovations. A well-represented ethics board will be able to address this conundrum better than countries trying to outdo each other chasing change.