Problems with Cloning

In general, the success rate of mammalian cloning is low, with less than 0.1 to 2.0 percent of transplanted nuclei yielding a live birth. The vast majority of transplants fail to divide or to develop normally, indicating there is much we still do not understand about reprogramming an adult nucleus to support embryonic development. One thing that is clear, however, is that having both the donor cell and host egg cell in a nondividing state is essential for success.

What might be both the most vexing and most interesting problem with cloning is related to aging. Chromosomes "show their age" by a shortening telomeres chromosome in their tips, or telomeres, a process that occurs every time the cell they are in divides. This telomere shortening occurs in all cells except eggs, sperm, and most cancer cells, and shortened telomeres are correlated with the aging of organisms. Since the nuclear DNA in most cloned animals is taken from an adult, the chromosomes of cloned animals are expected to have shorter telomeres than animals of the same birth age that are produced by sexual reproduction, causing researchers to wonder whether cloned animals will age prematurely. Shorter telomeres have been found in Dolly and other cloned sheep, but telomeres are reported not to be shorter in cloned mice or cattle. Underlying reasons for the different results may include differences between cell types or species used.

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