The British biologist Sir John Gurdon carried out pioneering frog cloning work during the 1950s and 60s – research which led to the creation of Dolly the sheep in 1996.
During an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific, Gurdon said that the time period between his cloned frogs and Dolly the sheep could be similar to the time we have to wait until the first human clone.
He said: “When my first frog experiments were done, an eminent American reporter came down and said ‘How long will it be before these things can be done in mammals or humans?’”
“I said: ‘Well, it could be anywhere between 10 years and 100 years – how about 50 years? It turned out that wasn’t far off the mark as far as Dolly was concerned. Maybe the same answer is appropriate.”
Advocates of human cloning argue that it would have important uses, such as allowing parents to clone a child who’s been tragically lost in an accident or through illness. The technology could also allow scientists to grow replacement tissues and organs that are accepted by the body without the need for immunosuppressive drugs.
On the flipside, critics highlight the fact that many cloned animals end up being deformed, warning that human clones could be similarly damaged. Others worry that cloning might lead to a loss of human dignity and individuality, as vividly depicted in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World.
Despite such complex ethical issues, however, Gurdon believes that human cloning would soon be accepted by the public if it turns out to have valuable medical uses.
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