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  Human cloning
Updated 07 March 2002, 15.19

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Scientific Development

A House of Lords select committee has decided that scientists in the UK can create human embryo clones under strictly controlled conditions.

These cells are for use in research but how would students feel about having a clone?

Learning aims

  • What a clone is
  • Whether cloning is ethical
  • Science brings challenges and rewards
1) Icebreaker
What is cloning?
A clone is a copy of a living organism. Identical twins are naturally occurring clones, and plants are often clones of their parent.

Imagine you had a clone
If students had a clone of themselves what would they use it for - It looks and sounds exactly like them!

List five things the clone could do e.g.

  • Send it to school in your place
  • Make it do chores
  • Teach year nine etc

    How many of the activities are enjoyable?

    Dolly the cloned sheep
    Give themselves marks out of five. The clone looks like them, it sounds like them but as it is an exact copy it also feels like them. How will it feel when it has finished the five tasks it was set? Write an answer in one word.

    Was it fair to treat the clone like that? Explain that one reason that some people oppose clone research is that clones may be treated badly.

    2) Main activity
    Should scientists be allowed to experiment with cloning humans?
    At the moment the scientists are not cloning whole human beings, just their cells. They use the cells for research into cancer and AIDS, which is beneficial to humanity.

    The problem is that already some 'rogue' scientists are saying that they want to clone a human being. One argument against cloning cells is that it is a 'slippery slope' that will lead to cloning of people.

    Balance the arguments for and against
    In this exercise the conclusion is less important than how it is arrived at, students see the arguments on both sides.

    On a piece of paper draw six triangles, about the size and shape of a cheese triangle. These form the base of six see-saws. By drawing a plank across students can balance two arguments, or one can outweigh the other. Which way the balance falls is up to the students, they must justify in a sentence or verbally their decision. The pairs of arguments are taken from the lists below.

      For cloning embryos
    • The cells could be used to develop a cure for cancer.
    • The cells could get rid of the need for animals in experiments.
    • Cloned cells could help infertile people have babies.
    • Banning cloning won't stop it, just force it underground.
    • Cloned organs could be used for transplants.
    • Cloning cells does not have to lead to cloning people.

      Against cloning embryos

    • Cloning could go wrong and produce deformed offspring.
    • Most cloned animals die before they are born.
    • Cloned people may be discriminated against.
    • An army of clones could be produced to fight wars.
    • Cloning makes us all less special (replaceable).
    • Clones could be cleverer and stronger than us, and take over

    Print this list as the Worksheet:

    3) Extension activity
    You are back with your clone from the first exercise, it is like you in every way, but has none of your memories, as these can not be copied.

    You take it on a tour of five special places from your childhood. At each place say what happened there and why it was important to you. Can the clone ever share your memory?

    4) Plenary
    Recap what cloning is and why it is an important issue, take a floor vote to see if the research should continue, remind students that scientists are not cloning people yet.

    Teachers' Background

    • Human somatic cell nuclear transfer is the correct term for creating an embryo by cloning.

    • The egg cell first has its nucleus removed. The nucleus is replaced with DNA any other cell.

    • Hundreds of mammals have been cloned so far but most attempts fail during pregnancy, there are many birth defects.

    • Dolly the sheep was cloned by PPL therapeutics in Roslyn, Scotland - they tried over 250 times before it worked.

    • Critics of cloning fear that it will result in designer babies.

    • The study of these issues is called Bio-ethics.

    • The Science Museum's 'Who am I ?' gallery looks at how genetics helps us understand identity. It features the exhibit 'Could there be another me?' that considers issues like those in this lesson.

    • The Rt Rev Richard Harries, the chairman of the House of Lords' select Committee, said: 'Research on early human embryos raises difficult moral and scientific issues, on which there are strong and sincerely held views. After looking at all the issues very carefully, the Committee was not persuaded that it would be right to prohibit all research on early embryos.'

    • Peter Garrett, director of research at the charity Life, said: 'This Committee is a put-up job. It is part of a larger effort to con the public into believing that therapeutic cloning is not cloning.'

    Turn this into an assembly

    • Using an extract from 'Brave New World' encourage students to imagine a future where cloning is commonplace. Imagine that they themselves had been cloned.

    • How would they feel if they had hundreds of brothers or sisters all identical to themselves?

    • If it is possible to show video students will remember the point in Toy Story where Buzz Lightyear discovers he is identical to thousands of other toys.

    • Cloning raises issues about identity and tolerance. Clones could change the balance in society, will they be an underclass or will we?

    For all links and resources click at top right.

  • More InfoBORDER=0
    TeachersWorksheet: Cloning human embryos
    Sci/TechNewsround: First human embryo cloned
    Find OutNewsround: Guide to cloning?


    BBC Links
    BBC News Online: Lords back cloning research
    BBC Horizon: Gene stories


    Web Links
    British Association
    Association for Science Education
    Science Museum online resources
    Note: You will leave CBBC. We are not responsible for other websites.



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