Human Cloning

April 12, 2010

We’re not quite to the point of replicating legions of human clones, but we’re certainly on our way.

(Image credit: Copyright © 1982, 1991 by the Blade Runner Partnership and/or The Ladd Company.)

Fiction: Blade Runner

Rachael from Blade Runner

Rachael from Blade Runner
Copyright The Ladd Company

The 1982 cult classic film Blade Runner depicts a dark future in which clones** – called Replicants – are used for, among other things, hard labor, soldiers and sex. They have been genetically engineered to be stronger, faster and sometimes even more intelligent than the humans who created them. After a bloody off-world mutiny, a fail-safe is added to ensure control – a limited life-span of only 4 years.

In the film, a group of renegade replicants search for their creators in an attempt to stop their imminent death, and are pursued by a human – a Blade Runner – whose job is to “retire” them.

**There is some debate over whether the Replicants were clones or androids. According to the official press kit for the film, the replicants were explicitly defined as “A genetically engineered creature composed entirely of organic substance,” so that’s what I’m going with.

 

Fact: Cloned Mammals

Tetra - cloned monkey

Image Credit: CBS News

We’re not quite to the point of replicating legions of human clones, but we’re certainly on our way.

Tetra is a macaque monkey that was cloned in the year 2000, and is said to be still happy and healthy today. Because macaques are genetically and physiologically similar to humans, they are the most widely used non-human primates in biomedical research. And, they are not the only mammals being successfully cloned. There have also been cloned dogs, cats, cattle, sheep and wolves (at least).

It seems pretty obvious that human cloning is technologically within reach, if not ethically. While human cloning is currently blocked in many countries, it seems naive to think there isn’t someone, somewhere doing some illicit experiments.

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