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What the future holds

While an investigation is on to confirm Dr Brigitte's claim to have created the first clone of a human, the world is now more focussed on what cloning has in store for humankind. Science has travelled far since the first animal clone, Dolly the sheep, was created. While Dolly?s creation was seen as a scientific breakthrough, human cloning has not been seen in the same light.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2003 18:05 IST

With the birth of the first human clone the world is now more focussed on what cloning has in store for humankind.

Science has travelled far since the first animal clone, Dolly the sheep, was created. Founder Director of Reliance Life Sciences Dr Firuza Parikh said, “Animal cloning and Dolly’s creation is a landmark achievement that will lead to human cloning. It will also tell us about the fallacies of science.”

While Dolly’s creation was welcomed as a scientific breakthrough, human cloning has not been seen in the same light. There have been many factions favouring and opposing the technique for various scientific, ethical and religious reasons. However, many scientists feel that such an experiment was bound to take place and will help change the power equations in the world.

"This breakthrough was inevitable and will have far reaching consequences on the development of nations. Perhaps, it will make the underdeveloped countries or developing countries the new epicentres of this exciting science," said Dr Firuza Parikh.

She said, “The scientists are divided on this issue not so much on ethical grounds but because the safety of this procedure has not been established.”

Now that the technique has been put into practice, the benefits and drawbacks are likely to come to the forefront, as the scientists will closely observe the cloned child.

So far, scientists have discussed the benefits of cloning more than its drawbacks. The only drawback they have mentioned is that the technique is not perfect yet and that it might cause physical and psychological damage to the cloned child.

Owing to such fears the technique and the clone’s acceptability still remain questionable.

Scientists feel that just as any other scientific advances that we at first viewed with fear and suspicion, cloning may also serve humanity in a useful and benevolent way. Dr Parikh said, “There are many discoveries and therapies that were earlier unacceptable but which are an acceptable mode of therapy today. IVF, which was not acceptable a few years ago, is a household word today. The negative aspect of cloning is what we as society do to exploit this science and use it when our knowledge of this is not complete.”

The other arguments are the positive aspects of the technique.

"Cloning can reverse aging process. It can help childless couples have children and it can cure many diseases such as Parkinson’s and diabetes, which have been considered incurable till date," said Dr V.K. Vinayak, Coordinator of the National Bioethics Committee, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.

According to Dr Parikh, human cloning will have far reaching impacts on the treatment of many diseases. Therapeutic cloning, which is like reproductive cloning but in which the embryo is not put back into the uterus, will be extensively used for generating stem cells for use in regenerative medicine. Treatment of infertility due to complete absence of male gametes will be feasible.

"Cloning will yield a better quality of life, as it will allow the science of tissue regeneration to develop. It will treat many forms of infertility and also help in the areas of gene therapy,” said Dr Firuza Parikh.

First Published: Jan 01, 2003 13:57 IST