China Successfully Clones Monkeys; Are Humans Next?
Scientists at the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai have successfully cloned two monkeys, leading to the very real prospect of cloning humans. The monkeys, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, were cloned with the same technique used to create Dolly the sheep in 1996.
The monkeys, two long-tailed macaques, mark the first time the order of primates have been cloned using this specific method. This essentially implies that the process of cloning a human fetus is completely possible, simultaneously opening up a deluge of ethical questions and potential for medical breakthroughs.
Though it’s not the first time primates have technically been cloned – a rhesus macaque was produced through embryo splitting in the late 1990s – it is the first time a primate has been cloned directly from a differentiated body cell. The monkeys were cloned using a process called somatic cell nucleus transfer, in which the nucleus of an egg cell is removed and DNA from a separate body cell is inserted. Scientists can create more clones this way compared to embryo splitting.
Researchers are excited at the prospect of being able to use this technology, in conjunction with the CRISPR gene editing tool, to solve or even completely eradicate some of medicine’s most confounding diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer.
However, the moral and ethical concerns abound when it comes to safety and the prospect of designer babies. Dystopian sci-fi storylines and Black Mirror plots also come to mind when thinking about the potential applications of this technology.
In Dec. 2002, the Raëlian UFO religious group, claimed to have successfully cloned a human through its Clonaid program, headed by French chemist Brigitte Boisselier. The claim led to much contention in the media when an attorney asked the group to verify the child’s welfare in court. Despite claims that she had successfully cloned over 13 other humans, the lack of evidence from Boisselier and others in Raëlian leadership led most to believe it was a hoax.
Antibiotic Resistance is Becoming a Major Threat to Humanity
As humans, we face a number of threats from the environment, but none may loom larger than the one posed by antibiotic resistance. Through our over prescription, poor regulation, agricultural abuse, and weak supply chains, a hyper-resistant bacteria is just around the corner. And unless we do something to change the tide, we may be looking at a pandemic of mass proportion.
Human presence on earth is a blip on the timeline compared to bacteria. And bacteria are pervasive; on our clothes, in our bodies, in dirt, and on the surface of pretty much everything – in fact, all of the bacteria on Earth, despite its microscopic size, would outweigh us 100 million times.
In the 3.5 billion years bacteria have lived on Earth, it has survived interminable challenges to its existence, which has only given it time to continuously adapt and outlast every other lifeform. Not to mention the fact that bacteria can reproduce 500,000 times faster than we can, with certain strains giving rise to a billion offspring within several hours.
Now that we’ve made it our mission to maintain sterile environments and avoid illness, we’ve been combating bacteria with chemicals and antibiotics every chance we get. Antimicrobials are used in everything from hand soap, to skin wipes, to yoga mats and kitchen towels, creating what can only be described as a Darwinian battleground, where only the strongest bacteria survive.