Stem Cells and Cloning

Therapeutic Cloning

Full organs can be grown using stem cells, which can then be used to provide patients with organ transplants.

In therapeutic cloning, a cloned embryo is created to produce embryonic stem cells. These stem cells will grow into an organ that the patient’s body will not reject. This is because the embryo, and therefore the organ, will have the same DNA as the patient being provided with the organ.

Diagram showcasing the differentiation of stem cells into various specialised cells and their corresponding organs. In the centre, a cluster of stem cells radiates out to different cell types: nerve cells leading to a depiction of the brain, cardiac cells connecting to a heart image, muscle cells linked to a muscle illustration, intestinal cells paired with an image of the intestines, and liver cells directed towards a liver illustration. Turquoise arrows guide the transformation from each cell type to its respective organ.

Stem cells can also be injected into patients. This technique may be useful to treat conditions such as diabetes and paralysis. The stem cells divide to form differentiated replacement cells, which repair the damaged tissue.

Evaluating Therapeutic Cloning

Advantages of therapeutic cloning

  • Could eliminate long waiting times.
  • Organs and cells are not rejected by the patient.
  • Could lead to organ regeneration.

Disadvantages of therapeutic cloning

  • Risk of transferring a viral infection.
  • Ethical/religious objections.
  • If the injected stem cells don’t respond to the body’s natural chemicals and continue to reproduce, the treatment could cause cancer.

The Use of Meristem Cells

Meristems are regions of undifferentiated cells typically found near the tips of stems and roots. These cells are capable of division and growth. Meristem tissue cuttings can be used to produce clones of plants quickly and economically. This means that rare or endangered plant species can be cloned, helping to preserve them.

Farmers can use meristem cells to clone plants with special features, like disease resistance, producing large numbers of genetically identical plants.

A sequential illustration of plant cloning. On the left, a plant with a labelled root clipping being taken by scissors. This progresses to the centre where the clippings are shown growing into masses of cells termed calluses in a petri dish. Finally, on the right, these calluses are depicted growing into multiple clones of the parent plant in a long rectangular pot. Green arrows indicate the progression from one stage to the next.

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