Chances are at some point you're going to die. As for how that may happen, most people don't know.
Some people have an idea of maybe how their time will come. Maybe they have heart problems, or immune-deficiency, or lung problems, or a failing liver, or some dreaded disease or whatever.
If you know, for instance that you've got a weak liver, then perhaps you have a feeling that it will be liver failure that will do you in. Maybe you know this because you have drank too much beer over the years, or maybe other life choices you have made have placed the good condition of your liver at risk. Or maybe you were just born with a liver that is weaker than most.
Each one of us will have our own particular life-threatening set of body-failure probabilities to deal with.
So maybe, when your time draweth nigh, you will want to call upon the medical profession to bail you out of the inevitable deathly situation; you may seek the doc's help in extending your time on earth.
Maybe you would, for instance, want to get a liver transplant so that you can live longer, or a heart transplant if that's what the issue is, or some brand-new, cancer-free bone marrow so you don't die of leukemia, if that is your problem.
If the weak link in your bodily chain of organs is, let's say, your liver, perhaps the doctor would say that you could be a candidate for a liver transplant. Or if your heart has some defect, then the transplant would we be a new heart.
Now the problem with that medical remedy is that your body may reject the liver, or heart, that has been grown in someone else's (the donor's) body. And I think this complication arises mainly from the reality that the donor's DNA makes their liver uniquely equipped, on a cellular level, for that person's body, not your body. The doctors, if they are going to insert someone else's liver in your body, need to all sorts of pharma tricks with baling wire and duct tape just to get the transplanted organ to "take" inside your gut.
Think of it like a car. Maybe your old chevy needs a new fuel pump. No problem. Just mozy on down to the dealership and pickup a new fuel pump. But of course you can't just buy any old fuel pump. It has to be the one that was made for your particular impala or chevelle or whatever chevy model you have. Or Fiesta or Fairlane or Focus if you're a Ford guy. And even more specific than that, the new part has to be selected according to the year in which your car was manufactured.
Same thing for your liver. Your very own, personal DNA-delivered liver has been humming right along all these years because it has the same genetic identity as every other cell in your body. You've been cruisin with a custom job all these years and maybe didn't even realize it, because it looks so much like the mass-produced version. But now, if your liver is worn-out, you're looking for a replacement. But the replacement for your old '57 chevy liver will not be found in the body of some accident victim 2011 Volt or Caprice.
So what if you could get your very own, personal DNA-delivered liver, manufactured especially for your you?
That's what this human cloning is mostly all about: generating, under laboratory conditions, organs and regenerative cells to help your body live longer. If you've got the money, honey, the labs will have the time, and the technology, and the treatment-- custom-tailored for you in a petri dish somewhere in Baltimore or Boston, Baton Rouge, Bakersfield or Bellevue.
This is called therapeutic cloning, not reproductive cloning. These are two different basic cloning objectives, although I think the procedures are very similar in the very earliest phases of the nuclear transfer process. The objective for therapeutic cloning is, according to my layman's understanding of it, to generate patient-compatible pluripotent stem cells that can be used to grow new healthy tissue in the recipient's body.
Now the researchers who have been working on and/or monitoring these research developments are for the most part, I think, agreed that reproductive cloning is not a good idea; some would even perhaps use the word "immoral," or "ethically inappropriate," or some such euphemism as that.
But this is a brand new can of worms that the scientific community, the medical community, and the general public will be dealing with as the years roll by and budgets are written while dollars are spent and the people come and go talking of michelangelo or donatello or mutant ninja turtles or chimerae or whatever. And everyone will make their own decisions about such things based on their own info base, financial base and moral compass and so forth and so on.
With this announcement, last week, of a successful human embryo being cloned in Oregon, the "cat" is, so to speak, out of bag. We're in a brave, new world, just as Aldous Huxley anticipated many years ago.
And though the scientific community may generally have the best intentions to regulate cloning procedures and outcomes to direct them within channels of therapeutic application, we all know how the human race is, and what will probably happen.
Not only is the cat out of the bag, but pandora has opened her box, and sooner or later some renegade Dr. Frankenhoo will do the reproductive thing and then he won't be able to resist letting all the world know and everybody will gasp when the first human clone shows up in a playground somewhere in Beijing or Ankara or Brussels or LA or Godonlyknows where.
And there will be prosperous folks who want to clone themselves and they will have the money to have it done and it will happen. Welcome to our 21st-century can of ethically-challenged worms. Will all our human-carnival predisposition for vanities and manipulations and exploitation and avarice and under-the-table dealings, back-alley abortofreaks, black-market, after-market, post-market, postpartum proclivities just take a back seat to the benefits of having therapeutic-cloned body parts?
Probably not, but then again maybe. Whatever beneficial things can happen will most likely be duplicated by somebody. You know how copies are; their quality depends on the equipment you use. So anything can happen and most likely will. Copy this message to someone if you think about it.