What is Animal Cloning?
Animal Cloning is the process by which an entire organism is reproduced from a single cell taken from the parent organism and in a genetically identical manner. This means the cloned animal is an exact duplicate in every way of its parent; it has the same exact DNA.

Cloning happens quite frequently in nature. Asexual reproduction in certain organisms and the development of twins from a single fertilized egg are both instances of Cloning.

With the advancement of biological technology, it is now possible to artificially recreate the process of Animal Cloning.

Development of Animal Cloning in the Lab
Scientists have been attempting to clone animals for a very long time. Many of the early attempts came to nothing. The first fairly successful results in animal cloning were seen when tadpoles were cloned from frog embryonic cells. This was done by the process of nuclear transfer. The tadpoles so created did not survive to grow into mature frogs, but it was a major breakthrough nevertheless.

After this, using the process of nuclear transfer on embryonic cells, scientists managed to produce clones of mammals. Again the cloned animals did not live very long. The first successful instance of animal cloning was that of Dolly the Sheep, who not only lived but went on to reproduce herself and naturally. Dolly was created by Ian Wilmut and his team at the Roslyn Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1997. Unlike previous instances, she was not created out of a developing embryonic cell, but from a developed mammary gland cell taken from a full-grown sheep.

Since then Scientists have been successful in producing a variety of other animals like rats, cats, horses, bullocks, pigs, deer, etc. You can even clone human beings now and that has given rise to a whole new ethical debate. Is it okay to duplicate nature to this extent? Is it okay to produce human clones? What would that do to the fabric of our society?

The Process of Animal Cloning
Initial attempts at artificially induced Animal Cloning were done using developing embryonic cells. The DNA nucleus was extracted from an embryonic cell and implanted into an unfertilized egg, from which the existing nucleus had already been removed. The process of fertilization was simulated by giving an electric shock or by some chemical treatment method. The cells that developed from this artificially induced union were then implanted into host mothers. The cloned animal that resulted had a genetic make-up identical to the genetic make-up of the original cell.

Since Dolly, of course, it is now possible to create clones from non-embryonic cells.

Now animal cloning can be done both for reproductive and non-reproductive or therapeutic purposes. In the second case, cloning is done to produce stem cells or other such cells that can be used for therapeutic purposes, for example, for healing or recreating damaged organs; the intention is not to duplicate the whole organism.

Ethics of Animal Cloning
While most scientists consider the process of animal cloning as a major break through and see many beneficial possibilities in it, many people are uncomfortable with the idea, considering it to be 'against nature' and ethically damning, particularly in the instance of cloning human beings.

The truth is that most of the general public are not aware of the exact details involved in cloning and as a result there are a lot of misconceptions about the entire matter.

In recent times, there have been a spurt of new laws banning or regulating cloning around the world. In some countries, animal cloning is allowed, but not human cloning. Some advocacy groups are seeking to ban therapeutic cloning, even if this could potentially save people from many debilitating illnesses.

Points against Animal Cloning
In a large percentage of cases, the cloning process fails in the course of pregnancy or some sort of birth defects occur, for example, as in a recent case, a calf born with two faces. Sometimes the defects manifest themselves later and kill the clone.

Points for Animal Cloning
On the favorable side with successful animal cloning - particularly cloning from an adult animal - you know exactly how your clone is going to turn out. This becomes especially useful when the whole intention behind cloning is to save a certain endangered species from becoming totally extinct.

That this is possible was shown by cloning an Indian Gaur in 2001. The cloned Gaur, Noah, died of complications not related to the cloning procedure.
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