high rates of death, deformity, and disability observed among animal clones
What are the risks of cloning?
Reproductive cloning is expensive and highly inefficient. More than 90% of cloning attempts fail to produce viable offspring. More than 100 nuclear transfer procedures could be required to produce one viable clone. In addition to low success rates, cloned animals tend to have more compromised immune function and higher rates of infection, tumor growth, and other disorders. Japanese studies have shown that cloned mice live in poor health and die early. About a third of the cloned calves born alive have died young, and many of them were abnormally large. Many cloned animals have not lived long enough to generate good data about how clones age. Appearing healthy at a young age unfortunately is not a good indicator of long-term survival. Clones have been known to die mysteriously. For example, Australia's first cloned sheep appeared healthy and energetic on the day she died, and the results from her autopsy failed to determine a cause of death.
In 2002, researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reported that the genomes of cloned mice are compromised. In analyzing more than 10,000 liver and placenta cells of cloned mice, they discovered that about 4% of genes function abnormally. The abnormalities do not arise from mutations in the genes but from changes in the normal activation or expression of certain genes.
Problems also may result from programming errors in the genetic material from a donor cell. When an embryo is created from the union of a sperm and an egg, the embryo receives copies of most genes from both parents. A process called "imprinting" chemically marks the DNA from the mother and father so that only one copy of a gene (either the maternal or paternal gene) is turned on. Defects in the genetic imprint of DNA from a single donor cell may lead to some of the developmental abnormalities of cloned embryos.
For more details on the risks associated with cloning, see the Cloning Problems
Should humans be cloned?
Physicians from the American Medical Association and scientists with the American Association for the Advancement of Science have issued formal public statements advising against human reproductive cloning. The U.S. Congress has considered the passage of legislation that could ban human cloning. See the Policy and Legislation
Due to the inefficiency of animal cloning (only about 1 or 2 viable offspring for every 100 experiments) and the lack of understanding about reproductive cloning, many scientists and physicians strongly believe that it would be unethical to attempt to clone humans. Not only do most attempts to clone mammals fail, about 30% of clones born alive are affected with "large-offspring syndrome" and other debilitating conditions. Several cloned animals have died prematurely from infections and other complications. The same problems would be expected in human cloning. In addition, scientists do not know how cloning could impact mental development. While factors such as intellect and mood may not be as important for a cow or a mouse, they are crucial for the development of healthy humans. With so many unknowns concerning reproductive cloning, the attempt to clone humans at this time is considered potentially dangerous and ethically irresponsible. See the Cloning Ethics
links below for more information about the human cloning debate.