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What is cloning?

Cloning has leapt from science fiction to science fact. Once merely the realm of imagination (a duplicate Elvis, a rink full of Gretzkys, or an army of Hitlers), the science of cloning, for medical advance or for reproduction, has raced ahead of public policy and ethical debate. From cloned cows to UFO cults, for better or for worse, Canada finds itself in the centre of the clone age.

Clones have lived among us for centuries. When a new plant is grown from a cutting, or a starfish grows from a severed arm, a genetically identical copy is created. Scientists have found ways to grow identical plants and frogs. Mice are next. Could humans be far behind? Geneticist David Suzuki says that like it or not (and he doesn't like it), we may soon be able to re-grow limbs or create another Mickey Mantle... or Charles Manson.
. A clone is an object or organism that is an exact copy of another object or organism. In biotechnology, cloning refers to the replication of genes, cells or entire organisms in a laboratory.
. Identical twins are a form of clones; they are genetically identical copies that grew from a single embryo.
. For decades scientists have cloned animals (e.g. prized livestock) by manually splitting an embryo to produce twins.

. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the substance that contains all the genetic codes for an organism. DNA and protein form into strands, or chromosomes, contained in the cell's nucleus. A gene is a fixed section of a chromosome that determines the development of a particular inherited characteristic.

. In 1952 scientists began cloning frogs using a technique called "nuclear transfer." Genetic material from an egg cell is removed, and a nucleus from the cell of another animal is inserted into the egg. The embryo that develops can become an organism with genetic information identical to that of the nucleus donor — a clone. Some early frog experiments resulted in viable embryos but none survived past the tadpole stage.

. Mickey Mantle (1931-1995) was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Baseball's Most Valuable Player three times (1956, 1957 and 1962), Mantle helped the New York Yankees win seven World Championships. Mantle hit the longest home run in history.
. Charles Manson is one of America's most famous criminals. In 1969 Manson and his hippie followers ("the Family") murdered seven people in Beverly Hills, including actress Sharon Tate. Manson was sentenced to life in prison.

. When famed mathematician and physicist Albert Einstein died in 1955, his brain was removed for research. Various studies found that Einstein's brain was smaller than average, but one part was larger; it had a high density of neurons, and a high ratio of glial [neuron support] cells to neurons, a thinner cerebral cortex, and an unusual pattern of grooves; any of which could account for his advanced thinking abilities and conceptual skills.

. In the 1978 movie The Boys from Brazil, Gregory Peck plays real-life Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. He creates 94 clones of Adolph Hitler and spreads them out around the world in the hopes of creating a duplicate.
. No tissue samples from Hitler are known to exist.
. Even if cells from Einstein or Hitler could be used for cloning, the clone would be raised in a different environment and would not necessarily be a genius or a psychopath.
Medium: Television
Program: 90 Minutes Live
Broadcast Date: Feb. 18, 1977
Guest(s): David Suzuki
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 8:05

Last updated: March 14, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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