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Cloning—Not the Big Bad Wolf—Killed the Three Little Pigs

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Nursery rhymes will never be the same. Three little pigs that were created using techniques similar to those used to create Dolly, the famous cloned sheep, dropped dead from heart attacks. Jerry Yang, the leader of a research team from the University of Connecticut, dubbed the three pigs’ deaths “adult clone sudden death syndrome,” (Pearson, 2003). Reporting on the unexpected deaths, science writer Helen Pearson commented on the Nature Web site: “Of four piglets born, one died within days. The remaining three have now collapsed and expired of heart failure at less than six months of age” (2003). Pearson continued: “The pigs’ demise is a stark reminder that cloned animals are far from normal. Many fall ill or die just after birth—Dolly herself passed away at the relatively tender age of 6.” Indeed, with animals suddenly dropping dead, now is not a good time to be a clone. Fortunately, many scientists are beginning to agree.

On September 22, 2003, more than 60 science academies from every continent in the world—members of the Interacademy Panel on International Issues (IAP)—issued a statement calling for a ban on human reproductive cloning. IAP members will present the statement to delegates of the United Nations Committee on Cloning, scheduled to meet in New York September 29-October 3, 2003. Their statement begins: “National academies of science from all parts of the world are united in supporting a worldwide ban on reproductive cloning of human beings” (see IAP Statement, 2003, p. 1). The IAP statement continues, noting:

Scientific research on reproductive cloning in other mammals shows that there is a markedly higher than normal incidence of fetal disorders and loss throughout pregnancy, and of malformation and death among newborns. There is no reason to suppose that the outcome would be different in humans. There would thus be a serious threat to the health of the cloned individual, not just at birth but potentially at all stages of life – without obvious compensating benefit to the individual bearing this threat. Moreover, death of a fetus late in pregnancy could pose a serious threat to the health of the woman carrying it. Even on a purely scientific basis, therefore, it would be quite irresponsible for anyone to attempt human reproductive cloning given our current level of scientific knowledge (pp. 1-2, emp. added).

The statement concluded by declaring: “We therefore call on all countries worldwide to ban reproductive cloning of human beings” (p. 2, emp. added). This announcement only reinforces what others have already noted—that cloned animals are not stable and healthy.

While this is a good step, the IAP statement is far from benign. While the representatives who prepared the statement support a ban on “reproductive” cloning, they support cloning and embryonic stem-cell research for “therapeutic” purposes. Thus, their statement called “for cloning to obtain embryonic stem cells for both research and therapeutic purposes to be excluded from this ban.” The last paragraph of the statements noted: “Cloning for research and therapeutic purposes therefore has considerable potential from a scientific perspective, and should be excluded from the ban on human cloning” (see IAP Statement, p. 3). Wasn’t the world a much better place when the only things threatening the three little pigs was the big bad wolf?

REFERENCES

Interacademy Panel (IAP) on International Issues (2003), “Statement on Human Cloning,” [On-line], URL: http://www4.nas.edu/IAP/iaphome.nsf/(weblinks)/WWWW-5RHFLT.

Pearson, Helen (2003), “Adult Clones in Sudden Death Shock,” Nature, Scienceupdate, [On-line], URL: http://www.nature.com/nsu/030825/030825-2.html.




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