Thursday, June 30, 2011

In a world of clones

Dolly on the cover of Time

There are probably a very small audience of people that read this blog and remember a game called Star Wars Republic Commando. In this game you are a clone in an army of clones however you are special. A select few of the millions of clones created are chosen to become a commando. Even though all the development stage of the clone's life is exactly the same as all the others (ensuring that they all look the same and are in peak condition) the commandos are treated and educated differently. Normally a clone is a mindless foot soldier in this army, however commandos are trained in specific fields are referred to as elite. In the game you play as the leader of a group of commandos and are a very well rounded soldier. Your "brothers" (also clones, so they really are you) are all completely different from each other. It's because they are individual people and specialize in different areas of expertise. They also all think and reason differently and have different personalities. For example Sev is a hunter which in war means he's good with a sniper rifle. He has one thing on his mind and that's the mission and hunting his prey. Meanwhile Fixer, another member of the team, is more of a war hero. He's extremely tech savy and prefers to use blades on his wrists to dispose of enemies. No matter what your genetic code says it has a small part to do with the person someone becomes.

Imagine living in a world full of clones of yourself. Just because everyone looks like you doesn't mean everyone is going to be nice to you. Social classes would arise and stereotypes would also arise. There would be jock versions of you, nerds, social butterflies, loners, rockers, the whole deal. Now when you reach adulthood the up bringing of one clone is going to be different from that of another and thus a different person is made.

Which one is my clone?

Imagine you love you pet cat. You love Fluffy so much that you want to get a clone made of it because it means that much to you. Well there's a little bit of a problem: the clone won't look or act anything like Fluffy. Weird, I know but this is because there are two major factors that make something look and act the way it is. One is genetics, which the clone will be exactly like Fluffy down to just about every nucleotide. The other factor, that really makes Fluffy who he is, is the environment. One that has a large key of making something look a certain way is the maternal effect. Depending on where the egg settles down in a uterus, what the mother eats (drinks, is exposed to), etc, etc, this will ultimately make or break this organisms development. Even after birth, the environment the organism is brought up in has a great impact on how it looks and acts.

If I was born under healthy conditions and my mother ate properly while pregnant, was healthy and I was brought up during the 90's in a middle class family I would become the person I am today. However if I clone myself in the year 2020 my clone will not be anything like me. Imagine if the carrier smokes daily, has a disease, and eats only hot dogs during pregnancy this child may have serious complications coming into the world. Now also imagine the child is raised and taught in front of a computer and is raised by a upper class family in Europe. Because off all the difference I may hate my clone, we may never get along, and due to his carrier's behavior chances are I wouldn't recognize it as my clone.

When they first cloned Dolly the sheep people had an idea that it would age extremely quickly (for whatever reason). Now Dolly died of a rare form of lung cancer which many thought was a clear sign of being cloned. This is not true though, she was actually one a several in her barn to contract this disease. The disease is actually transferred when an animal comes into close contact with a carrier (the disease has a 3 month latent period so once one sheep had it the scientists were sure most of the one's in the barn had it). Another health issue Dolly seemed to have was arthritis, and though it is seen in older sheep it is rarely seen in sheep as young as Dolly was when she first developed it. Some speculated that this too must be a sign of early aging due to cloning. However this can also be explained, Dolly was a very unusual sheep who enjoyed rearing up on its back 2 legs in order to be fed and posed for many pictures. Doctors that examined Dolly did agree that this could easily have caused the arthritis and it was nothing out of the ordinary. Once Dolly passed away scientists allowed tissue samples to be thoroughly examined. This is what is really interesting: they found that Dolly's telomeres were shorter than they should be. Telomeres are essentially the glue holding your DNA together at the ends, over time these telomeres shorten which puts a cap on how many times each cell can divide. Although this did not kill Dolly is kind of meant she wasn't as older as she really was. Although I can't explain why or how this happened I do have an idea. It is possible that the DNA taken from the host sheep had shortened telomeres that what is seen in a new born sheep (because the host DNA has shorter telomeres than a newborn). Over Dolly's life the telomeres could have shortened to the point they were seen at after she died. There are many other theories about why Dolly's telomeres were shortened and even though they were shorter that doesn't actually mean anything. Telomeres are torn very slightly during each cell replication cycle, but they are also repaired. The shortening of telomeres is such a slow process that it is actually possible that Dolly just got really unlucky with telomere shortening. However this could also be seen that a clone may have a flaw in repairing broken telomeres.

There are many flaws in cloning and even if you want a clone of you right this second you cannot get that. The best chance you have of getting a clone of something that is the same age of the host is starting the cloning process the day the animal is conceived. Good luck. Also you have to make sure it develops under the exact same conditions, is brought up in the exact environment, and every single genetic mistake is done at the same time (random chance). In short, it's not going to happen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Intro and How I feel

Be ready everyone because the future starts tomorrow. Everything we were taught in school, mainly science classes, is subject to change and yet we learn what is taught to be infallible. I mean, we are forced to if we want to get good grades and get a good job, but in reality we can be taught 2+2=fish and if we say 4 on a test we're wrong. The key to being a good student is listening and repeating. Learning comes from life experiences and is our body's way of saying doing this again is a good thing (or bad thing). Look at history:

Dark Ages:
the black death is here and if you do not repent and pray to God you will die.

the bubonic plague was transferred across Europe via a number of different carriers from Asian traders.

This is funny because I'm pretty sure if you were to take a test in "school" during the Dark Ages and wrote down that the black death could be avoided by any way other than repenting you would be called a blasphemer and burned.

Ok so I think I've made my point about the education system, however this is not the point of this blog, it's mainly to educate you on my beliefs of controversial genetic research and practices. As well as maybe educate you about what actually goes on in them. My first topic of conversation is why I could never clone myself, believe me, it's possible. Should it be done? Maybe, but should I have a clone today? Hell no. Not only do I not want a copy of myself, I do not need to look after a child at this point in my life. These are still not reasons why I won't do it, just reasons why I should not do it tomorrow. The idea behind cloning a person shouldn't be to replace a dead relative or create another famous person at all but rather to use one's own cells to test medications, study viruses, and possibly regrow lost organs and tissues. Instead of waiting years for little Jimmy Everychildwithcancer to find a donor for a new, uh... lung, and put this little fictional 8 year old (he's a chronic smoker) on medications that would weaken his immune system, so it doesn't destroy this new functional lung, for the rest of his life we can create a new lung from Jimmy's own cells. Now no one is missing a lung and Jimmy can go about his normal everyday (chain smoking) life with 2 lungs.

However there is an opposing side to this miracle of science, and no its not that they don't like Jimmy. To create a human life is something so sacred that it would shouldn't be done on a whim. Human life is very precious and should be kept precious. However it all depends on what you define as life. A living cell? To me this cell is part of you and you should have every right to take it for yourself. A new human being cloned from you? It's a new human being! Yes the cells are identical to you, but it's not you. It was born and should be given the freedoms you were. Now figuring out when a person stops becoming cells and starts becoming a fetus is a debate for a pro-choice and pro-life blog.

This still is not why I won't clone myself, so stop thinking about the ethical reasons behind actually doing and start thinking about me, the cloned me that is. I would see myself grown up and think I have to follow that. What happens when I get old and die? Would I die the same way? Would disease affect me in the same fashion? How much does environment actually affect the genes of someone with the same genes? What happens when I get married? Will my wife look at my clone as her own child or just a step child? It is in fact only half hers. Would she fall in love with me when she's old and I'm the age we first met? I will never be able to answer these questions and they are very difficult to consider. If I was told today that I am just a clone I would just have to stop and think, why would I do that to myself?

So in closing, thank you for reading and I hope you decide to continue to read