In the late 90s, some scientists in Edinburgh, Scotland, presented to the World, Dolly. She was a sheep they had cloned by messing around with adult sheep cells by injecting an egg into it and thereby creating an embryonic egg that they were able to grow into a fully formed ewe. Cloning wasn’t new in the 90s. Experiments in cloning were actually successful as far back as 1885 when Hans Adolf Edward Dreisch shook up some sea urchin cells and proved cells could be separated and grow into two identical creatures.
From that moment on, the scientific world has been working hard to clone animals (not by shaking them), and map the human genome. Mapping the human genome allows incredible advances in medicine by pinpointing where things go wrong in development, very early in the embryonic stages. Knowing which pieces and parts of a strand of DNA are responsible for not just traits like blue eyes or curly brown hair, but also genetic defects like Down's Syndrome, Hemophilia, and Huntington's Disease. By understanding where to find the root of where something goes wrong, the hope is that cures can be discovered.
With the advent of the first discoveries of twinning, the scientific world has been faced with a great tug of war…research and find cures vs. maintaining an ethical standard for science. Where is the line in the sand? If human beings are cloned, are they "human?" Or are they something else? Can we discard all the laws for the ethical treatment of animals, which are human food sources, if we are growing them in a lab instead of on a farm? Should we be cloning human beings at all?
The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin took a good hard look at cloning in a fictional setting. The book takes a look at the question: What if Hitler could be cloned? Going deeper than that, it questions how much behavior is innate (nature) vs how much is learned (nurture). It was the first story I had read as a child about cloning and I've been fascinated with it ever since, seeking out more books, like The Island of Doctor Moreau (which didn't really get the science right, but was fascinating to my 13-year-old self all the same), and finally writing my own novel about it in 2016.
Last week, Dolly was back in the news. The Washington Post is reporting that they finally figured out Dolly's age at birth. Remember, she was created from an adult cell, so the question was, at "conception" was she 6 years old or was she a new "baby?" I won't give it away. Go read the story yourself. I'll go work on editing my novel. It needs a lot of work!