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Human Cloning Possible Within 50 Years, Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist Claims 233

Posted by samzenpus
from the me-and-more-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about the possibility of having another you in the future. "Human cloning could happen within the next half century, claims a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Sir John Gurdon, the British developmental biologist whose research cloning frogs in the 1950s and 60s led to the later creation of Dolly the sheep in 1996, believes that human cloning could happen within the next 50 years. He said that parents who lose their children to tragic accidents might be able to clone replacements in the next few decades. Gurdon, who won this year's Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, said that while any attempts to clone a human would likely raise complex ethical issues, he believes that in the near future people would overcome their concerns if cloning became medically useful."
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Human Cloning Possible Within 50 Years, Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist Claims

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  • by Harald Paulsen (621759) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:14AM (#42357237) Homepage

    Unless you're a single parent, just have sex. Good way to create a new offsprint, no? :-)

    • by erroneus (253617) on Friday December 21, 2012 @06:36AM (#42357825) Homepage

      No, it's a terrible way... for men anyway. Fact is, women very often use men so they can have children and simply "change" after they got what they want. Often the current legal system is used as a means of collecting child support so that the woman doesn't have to work for a living. Stuff like this [tiredblackman.com] goes on more than I would like to think. And I was almost a victim of ridiculous rules about child support where my ex-wife was collecting welfare in California and she included our two sons in with the claim. I don't know how long the process takes, but eventually, the state of California tracked me down to my employer and informed them of the requirement to take my pay. This was very confusing for me and for my employer. The problem? *I* had the children with me and had been with me for quite some time. Had them enrolled in school. The records of my having them were abundantly available. The child support office in Texas said "it is not our responsibility to validate the claims made by other states" and apparently the rules for proof are equally bad in California. I actually had to take my sons out of school, drag them down to the child support office with all sorts of paperwork to prove I am their father and that my sons are with me. What the hell!? So easy for women to make claims and so hard for men to fight it.

      We used to appreciate the need for a strong nuclear family. I don't know when that changed... probably before I realized it... I grew up rather old fashioned and still think like that most of the time.

      There is a population decline in the first world. The third world is multiplying like rabbits, however. "Save the children"? Really? Stop having children you can't support. I know. I know... that's a first-world person's mind. I'm sure there are good reasons for bringing in a baby which cannot be supported into the world. To be fair, a lot of it is instinct but we can't talk about that because instinct is something only animals have instead of minds to think with and we can't go anywhere near that subject.

      It might seem somewhat orwellian or apocalyptic or something, but I seriously think there should be some population controls in place as it is. But once again, no one wants to go there... to decide who should reproduce and who shouldn't. "Do you have a license for that baby?" The world is facing some serious problems with population and resources. It is presently not sustainable and something has got to give. And with global warming changing the way rain falls all over the planet, there will soon be some massive dyings in different parts of the world... and violence... there's always violence... all of which could be avoided if we would simply take charge of our human existance and bring things under control.

      It would be immoral... but is it less immoral to let thousands of not millions die of starvation? Only the 1% are expected to survive all of this well you know.

      • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@noSPAM.carpanet.net> on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:26AM (#42358397) Homepage

        > We used to appreciate the need for a strong nuclear family. I don't
        > know when that changed... probably before I realized it... I grew up
        > rather old fashioned and still think like that most of the time.

        For a rather short period of time. The "nuclear family" was probably never the best of ideas, and definitely a modern one. There is ample evidence that living in extended families has huge benefits, not the least of which is the resulting serious decrease in mental health issues (believed to be due to growing up with a larger support network).

        In an extended family, there are just plain more people to watch the kids, more people to teach them. Its better for the kids, better for the parents, better for the older generations.

    • by Smallpond (221300)

      Unless you're a single parent, just have sex. Good way to create a new offsprint, no? :-)

      Hey, new word:

      Offsprint (n) - Offspring created through cloning.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:16AM (#42357247)

    You may be able to recreate a human with the exact same genetic material as its source, but that doesn't mean creating another you. The butterfly effect applies in the womb (or whatever replacement they will be using for it) - the brain will develop slightly differently in individuals, even if genetic material is 100% identical. Thus, identical twins may well have slightly different characters (one good, one evil). Also, this clone of yours will never have had the exact set of experiences that you did, and therefore will develop differently.

    Also, I may be biased but I think the old fashioned way of creating humans is more fun.

    • by meerling (1487879) on Friday December 21, 2012 @06:04AM (#42357703)
      I wouldn't say 'slight differences'. Even raised in the same environment, and sharing many of the same experiences, identical twins are not identical. Nobody would argue that they are two different people.
      Obviously a clone may share appearances with their DNA donor, but would have a totally different environment and experiences. They would probably be nothing alike outside of their overall appearance.

      Saying that parents could replace a dead offspring is a horrible and deceitful thing to say. The clone would be a new person that only looked like the dead one. The parents would be torturing themselves by having a constant reminder of the dead child in the image of a new one that definitely isn't the prior one. As to the poor clone, it would be always having to live up to the expectations others have based on a dead child. You thought you had a problem living in the shadow of your older siblings, just imagine the horror of living in the shadow of a dead child you were cloned from.;

      I'm not against cloning, but it needs to be done for the correct reason, and people need to understand that the clones are new individuals that have nothing to do with their donor other than sharing a genetic heritage, just like you. You see, you are essentially a hybrid clone derived from 2 donors. It's not an exact analogy, but it's close enough. Kind of funny how that works out.
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Until we can exactly copy a human brain into a blank one, the fact that you can make an identical looking body is totally irrelevant. You could probably get that by cosmetic surgery now anyway, but no one would think for a minute that it was a replica of the original you had lost.
    • by Sigg3.net (886486)

      For those of us in IT; It's not a backup, it's an early fork.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      >even if genetic material is 100% identical

      Don't forget about epigenetics.

    • You may be able to recreate a human with the exact same genetic material as its source, but that doesn't mean creating another you. The butterfly effect applies in the womb (or whatever replacement they will be using for it) - the brain will develop slightly differently in individuals, even if genetic material is 100% identical. Thus, identical twins may well have slightly different characters (one good, one evil). Also, this clone of yours will never have had the exact set of experiences that you did, and therefore will develop differently.

      Also, I may be biased but I think the old fashioned way of creating humans is more fun.

      Absolutely!

      It's been conclusively proven that "who you are" is almost as much your genes as it is your mothers genes (ie gestating parent) as well as what she ate and all the other aspects of her life (eg emotional/mental stress) at the time.

      WHO YOU ARE is 50% genetic and 50% all the other aspects of ALL of your environment from the moment of conception.

      Cloning a human being will produce something close to genetic identity, but it WILL (probably) NEVER produce "the same person".

  • I support human cloning. Why not? Maybe some of us are too valuable to waste by mixing our genetics with an inferior being. I'm sure there are people who think like that. But to replace a child? Not only would the kid always worry about whether or not he was "wanted" or "playing his role" correctly, but the parents would quite likely overcompensate in one way or another. Would you really want to be a "replacement" whose parents either spoiled you stupid for being someone that isn't "you" or neglect you bec
    • by guttentag (313541)

      I support human cloning. Why not? Maybe some of us are too valuable to waste by mixing our genetics with an inferior being. I'm sure there are people who think like that.

      If you should run into such a person, ask them if they think inbreeding with their cousins is wrong. Then ask them if inbreeding with their siblings is wrong. Then ask them to imagine the kind of genetic disaster that would result if they inbred with themselves.

      But to replace a child? Not only would the kid always worry about whether or not he was "wanted" or "playing his role" correctly, but the parents would quite likely overcompensate in one way or another. Would you really want to be a "replacement" whose parents either spoiled you stupid for being someone that isn't "you" or neglect you because you don't "match" the way you should?

      Any parent who is so selfish that they value the genetic attributes of their dead kid more than the relationship they shared with that unique individual should have their cloned kid taken away. And then the cloned kids should be permitted to clone th

    • But what exactly makes a person 'too valuable to waste'? With a different set of experiences a clone is likely to turn out quite differently from the original. Let's say you clone a sports legend - with different experiences the clone likely won't choose to dedicate his/her life to training to repeat the achievements of the original.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Now that's just creepy. Nothing like giving a child; a clone child at that; giving a child a serious identity complex. "We loved your source so much and when we lost him, we wanted to bring him back. Now we have you." Huh?! What? You love me or my ghost brother?! WTF?!

    • by dbIII (701233)
      It makes more sense than replacing an adult unless a way is found around a clone of say a 48 year old having a very short life span while a clone of a one year old having a normal life span. Look at some of the things written about Dolly the sheep for details (New Scientist had some good stuff).
      Oddly enough childrens anime explores these themes well - in Nanoha there is a character obsessed with her dead daughter who creates a clone, but then hates the clone intensely because the clone is not really her da
    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday December 21, 2012 @07:18AM (#42358041)

      Kid: "Mom, I want a skateboard!"

      Mom: "No, you'll fall off a handrail doing a trick with it, crack your head open, and die."

      Kid: "No I won't!"

      Mom: "Trust me, this is the third time that I've been through this . . . "

  • by Radak (126696) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:28AM (#42357303) Journal

    I can understand the desire to clone lost pets. The pet relationship is one of companionship, and creating a pet predisposed to similar behaviors as one who made a good companion before makes some sense, but a child? I cannot imagine most parents would want to do that, no matter the circumstances of the loss of the original child. You think it's tough on a kid finding out he's adopted? Imagine finding out you were a replacement.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      You think it's tough on a kid finding out he's adopted? Imagine finding out you were a replacement.

      I already know someone raising a kid like that. He neglected his original son because the mother's family drove him away, and he let them. His first son committed suicide and left a note fingering him. Now he's got another son and has actually said he feels like the spirit of the dead son is in this one. You don't even need a clone for this. This is not to suggest that we should use cloning to attempt to revive the dead, however; indeed, I left this comment to support your position. There's kids getting it

    • Sometimes dead is better.
      The person you put up there ain't the person that comes back. It may look like that person, but it ain't that person.
  • why so long? Biology ain't my thing, but I fail to see what's so different about humans than sheep or dogs. Is human DNA that much more complex than other mammals?

    I thought the problem was more of an ethical one rather than technical. My understanding is that to clone an animal, you must create lots of fetuses and most of them die until you get a successful one. Acceptable for sheep, not acceptable for humans. Is that right?

    • I would imagine that animals can't communicate any other conditions that they might have as a result of the process, but our technology to detect these problems either hasn't matured or doesn't exist. Take for example, having pain or numbness somewhere. Or maybe in things that most animals don't have, for example finer motor skills or higher order thought processes.

      I suspect that cloning an octopus or a dolphin respectively could determine the practicability of those, but there are any number of other thing

    • Cloneing is very unreliable. Dolly was famous, but less famous were the hundreds of failed attempts which either failed to implant or miscarried before birth. Such an approach works fine in sheep, where your lab can keep a breeding stock of ewes, but it isn't very practical for humans.

    • cloning tech isn't perfect. before dolly there were a lot of sheep born inside out and similar.

      with sheep a lot of failures isn't a big deal but if we rushed ahead with cloning humans it would likely lead to a lot of deformed and damaged children which would almost certainly lead to the tech being banned.

      Which would be a pity because there's incredible possible medical applications.
      lets say they figured out how to clone individual organs. bad heart? lets grow you a new one.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      The problem would be doing it right and perfect each and every time and to be able to intervene if things start to go bad along the way. A six-legged calf isn't so much of a moral issue... but deformed human clones?! Uh boy.... do we have to go there?

  • by Radak (126696) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:32AM (#42357319) Journal

    The only kind of human cloning I think I'd really like to see is cloning for organ farming, either cloning an entire (brainless, presumably) copy of myself so I have an entire inventory of replacement organs, or cloning individual organs as the need arises. Ultimately, I'd like to be able to grow a whole new me whose body is, say, 20 years old, and then transfer my brain into the new body. Still have to solve the problem of the brain itself decaying, but once we figure that out, the world can enjoy my rapier wit forever!

    • by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:58AM (#42357455)

      You took the wrong lesson away from The Island. The correct lesson: clone Scarlett.

    • And your brainless copy can spend it's time doing healthy exercise and waiting to go to the Island.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      That would be good at some levels, but I think we'd be better off in the long run if we were to ignore commercial interests and start proving which things cause health problems in humans and eliminate them. The problem is we want money more than life and heath and are perfectly happy sacrificing the rest of humanity so we can have better preservatives, pain relievers, sweeteners and other such things.

      The money would be better spent on prevention.

  • by bugnuts (94678) on Friday December 21, 2012 @04:39AM (#42357357) Journal

    I need to farm a new heart with no chance of rejection.

    See? The ethical issues aren't complex at all!

  • cloning a child doesn't bring the child back, it only brings back a DNA copy, but not the same person (unless they invent something like the 'syncorder' as used in the movie 'the 6th day').
    Well, if it's ethical is another matter, as something deemed ethical is always in the eye of the beholder.. personally being able to just buy a new body and keep living on doesn't seem like a bad idea to me.. And what's the difference in cloning an animal or a person, to me there isn't as we too are just animals..

  • Scientists can clone high order animals right now including mammals. What exactly is the issue from a scientific standpoint of cloning a human? I'm sure there are issues but mostly they relate to ethics than the actual science. I wouldn't be surprised if some labs could clone a human right now and would if they thought they could withstand the onslaught of controversy and legal issues that it would bring with it.
  • In simple standard case, it's just a matter of an identical twin with a different age. Can't see what's ethically questionable or complex about that.

    But there's a hidden snag: normally, there would be no reason to do that. Once there is a more specific motive, the questions start popping up. Most cases have parallels already, but safe, efficient cloning would make them more accessible and likely:

    Clueless idiots raising a clone to be a replacement for a lost child isn't in principle any different from clu

    • Finally, somebody with some sense.

      What the hell is all this babble about ethical problems? There are no ethical problems unique to clones. A clone is a lab-created identical twin with a different age. The rules do not suddenly change just because of in vitro fertilization. We know this because we already have in vitro fertilization. Cloning is just in vitro fertilization with a single genetic donor instead of two. This is not hard to understand. A baby is a baby, wherever it came from. It grows up t

  • by pev (2186) on Friday December 21, 2012 @06:12AM (#42357717) Homepage

    He was interviewed this week on Radio 4's "The Life Scientific" and you can download the interview as .mp3 [bbc.co.uk]. And yes, I think you peeps outside the UK are treated to this as well even though it's the BBC.

    I can also *highly* recommend Slashdotters have a dig through the TLS archive for other interviews ; it's full of incredible scientists talking about their life and work. Proper fascinating. For my money I can reccommend the first three as starting points Paul Nurse [bbc.co.uk], Stephen Pinker [bbc.co.uk], Jocelyn Bell-Burnell [bbc.co.uk].

    An extra special mention goes to the interview with Molly Stephens [bbc.co.uk]. She is doing the most incredible things that blew my mind when I heard the interview. Not only that but she's assembled a really unusual collection of people with skills across so many different fields to look at the one goal in a the pragmatic way that so many organisations fail to. Oh, and she comes across as a genuinely lovely and interesting lady. Wow. I just realised that I have the most immense geek crush on her. I hope she doesn't read Slashdot... Actually, if you do, fancy a drink? :-D

  • If we can build clones then we should be able to start using them to grow spare organs and limbs for people that need transplants or are injured. Does a clone have a soul?
    • by pev (2186)

      Interestingly, see my previous post about the TLS podcast. Listen to the interview with Molly Stephens and then reconsider whether that's such an economical approach...!

  • I'm more interested (and what seems also much closer target, some research promise it in next 5 years) that you can clone tissue, kidney, etc. in laboratory. That would make much bigger impact on society.

    For creating an offspring better try sex. Much funier expierence.

  • "He said that parents who lose their children to tragic accidents might be able to clone replacements in the next few decades."

    But this wouldn't be the same child. The original will have still died in the accident. It's like replacing your daughter's dead puppy and naming it "Fido 2." Even she knows it's not a real substitute.

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      No, it isn't like Fido2. Fido2 probably neither understands or cares that he's a replacement. A child with a parent attempting to force him/her into the mold of a dead sibbling would probably be quite damaged psychologically. That's not to mention what happens when the kid realizes that is the only reason he/she exists. Anyone who does it for this reason is a horrible parent worthy of neither child.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Friday December 21, 2012 @08:39AM (#42358453)
    So an infection killed your kidney? You need a transplant but we'll just create a new working clone of your kidney from almost any cell in your body and implant that.(Hopefully no rejection but MD's here can tell me if that's true or not.) Hey, got cancer? Cloning may help with that. Clone yourself a whole new body that doesn't have a brain and implant your brain in that. (As long as the cancer hasn't metastasize into your brain this would theoretically work. Yeah, I know reattaching all the nerves and blood vessels is going to be a bitch.) Hell you could even cure some genetic diseases with this. You have a genetic defect that makes your liver not work? Take your dna, fix the issue then clone a good liver from that. (Yes, I know a lot of this is going to be difficult but in theory a lot of this should work.)
  • i could see a pagent mom cloning her "doll" N times just to have that many extra chances to WIN AT ALL COSTS

    Krystal 2 breaks an ankle before a competition= replace with Krystal 3
    K1 ODs on her meds= call and have a new clone whipped up

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      It would have to be all at once, and then hide the fact that multiples exist. It wouldn't be any different than pageant mom lucking out and having twins. 'whipping up' a new clone means getting a newborn baby... 9 months later. I don't think the judges can be stalled that long.

      • im assuming that a new clone can be ready in say a couple months

        and yes the small fact that Krystal has N dupes would need to be hidden

  • Until they figure out the Consciousness transfer system having a much younger me is pretty worthless. They figure out how to grow another me and then I can download into the new body... I'm interested.... until then leave me in the cryo chamber, I haven't finished my conversation with Mister Disney...

  • So, Clone Wars start in 60 years?
  • by morgauxo (974071) on Friday December 21, 2012 @10:31AM (#42359227)

    I was going to post this as a response to a comment but it was already getting burried and I bet plenty of others wrote or thought the same as the parent. Cloning will not increase the population! Whenever cloning comes up the 'there are too many people for Earth to support and yet I am not going to kill myself' people feel the need to chime in.

    Apparently many people read cloning and see factories full of vats growing thousands or millions of people like something out of Star Wars. Real cloning, as it is likely to exist any time this century is just another way to make an embryo. It's an alternative to conception. The fetus still has to spend the same time inside a mother's womb. The mother goes through alll the same discomforts of pregnancy. If she is willing to go through that for a clone she would probably have gotten knocked up anyway.

    Yes, there are potential downsides to cloning. Less genetic diversity, kids growing up being expected to continue their dead gene donor's life although they are not the same person (talk about being in your older siblings shadow). Then there are darker themes like cloning a whole person to get a body part... Population increase? Why would that happen?

  • I would love to be able to upload my conscious to a digital medium and then into a clone cybernetic body later, kinda like Ghost in the Shell does it.
  • It hasn't already been done in a lab somewhere. I mean the basic IVF setup could be used to do it. Now couple this with Kurzweils Singularit theory and you'll be able to have clones in stasis, then when you get old and gray, you can just stuff your consciousness into a new body. Cool!
  • If I lost a child, I think the last thing I'd want is a constant reminder of a tragedy. Maybe we'd have other kids. But making a clone is not the same as restoring a backup copy. It's NOT the same child! And just imagine being that clone. It's bad enough for younger children that live in the shadows of their older siblings. Now imagine being expected to show the same behaviors and knowledge as someone you've never met. This would be a totally unreasonable amount of pressure on the child. They'd be s

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but researchers have been successfully cloning whole mammals like cats and sheep for some time now. It's been nine years since Dolly the sheep was cloned. I am not a biologist, but it seems to me that if we can clone one mammal, then the same broad set of techniques can be used to clone pretty much any other animal. If I recall correctly, to achieve the success of Dolly, the research team had to go through many, many attempts before achieving success, a failure rate which might not

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