• Question: can you clone a person

    Asked by rare493tet on 15 Nov 2023. This question was also asked by away493tet.
    • Photo: Michael Schubert

      Michael Schubert answered on 15 Nov 2023:

      Right now, we can’t clone people. Humans are very complex and our cloning knowledge and technology is still developing, so we don’t have the skills and equipment to safely and accurately clone humans yet.

      It’s also a complicated question from a legal and ethical perspective. Should we clone people? Why? Are some reasons for cloning people better than others? Should we take the risk of cloning someone if we aren’t sure the process will be safe or accurate? What happens if we make a mistake during the cloning process? Will human clones be as healthy and live as long as people who haven’t been cloned? What if you clone someone who doesn’t want to be cloned? You can see that it’s quite a complicated issue and one we need to do a lot of thinking about and discussing before we start, even once we have the scientific ability to do it!

    • Photo: Sophie Shaw

      Sophie Shaw answered on 16 Nov 2023:

      A lot of work has been done around the technical part of cloning (getting the DNA and putting it into embryo), but there are ethical and legal reasons why we can’t do that. Michael explains this really well!

    • Photo: Martin Johnsson

      Martin Johnsson answered on 17 Nov 2023:

      “Cloning” can mean different things in different contexts.

      For example, many plants are very easy to clone; you just take a cutting from one of your geranium houseplant and stick it in a new pot, and there you go–a new, genetically identical individual. Of course, humans can’t do that. We don’t have a natural mechanism for asexual reproduction like that.

      Instead, cloning of mammals is something that happens only in a lab, by a process called “somatic cell nuclear transfer”. It means that you replace the nucleus of an egg cell with a nucleus from another cell, and becuase the nucleus of the cell contains the DNA (at least, most of it), this is like transplanting the genome of one person into the new egg. When the egg develops, this results in a new individual genetically identical individual (excluding the mitochondrial part of the DNA, which lives outside of the nucleus). That is, a “clone”.

      This has been done in many other mammals. Would it be technically possible in humans? Probably. You can clone a sheep, a pig, a dog, a horse … you could probably make it work for humans. But why would you?

    • Photo: Caroline Hyde

      Caroline Hyde answered on 17 Nov 2023:

      In theory, it may be possible to clone a human as the technology and knowledge itself exists. To date, however, and whilst it is largely illegal and hugely unethical, there is no evidence that anyone has done this. The first successful cloned mammal was Dolly the sheep in 1996.

    • Photo: Martin Minarik

      Martin Minarik answered on 18 Nov 2023:

      It may seem technically possible, as we’ve already cloned a few mammal species by transferring a cell nucleus from one of their cells to an egg from which the nucleus was removed. However, the clones are often quite ill, and most of them in fact fail to develop as embryos, which shows how complicated the process is. The problem is that it’s not just DNA that defines what our cells are capable of and how they develop and function. Different cells put specific labels on parts of DNA that they regularly use, or never use etc. – imagine your cell nucleus being a book and the DNA being the text on its pages. Each reader (the cell) then puts different bookmarks in, uses some highlighter here and there, writes loads of notes above the letters and on the side, and some even bend page corners (yeah, I’d do that!). Now, with cloning, for you to be able to use such an aged book to tell an egg how to make a complete human, you’d have to make it look like a completely new book fresh out of print, which doesn’t sound easy. And it’s much more complicated with actual DNA. So my conclusion would be that it may be technically possible, but with likely very poor results.

    • Photo: Walter Bodmer

      Walter Bodmer answered on 18 Nov 2023:

      Probably in principal yes, at least sooner or later. But so far could not be done ethically and I would prefer to eave it like that