How Human Cloning Will Work

By: Kevin Bonsor & Cristen Conger

Creating a Human Clone

One, two, three, clone! A simplified breakdown of how cloning works.
© 2012 HowStuffWorks

In January 2001, a small consortium of scientists led by Panayiotis Zavos, a former University of Kentucky professor, and Italian researcher Severino Antinori said that they planned to clone a human in two years [source: Kirby]. At about the same time, news surfaced about an American couple who planned to pay $500,000 to Las Vegas-based company Clonaid for a clone of their deceased infant daughter [source: Clonaid]. Neither venture produced documented success.

Then, in 2004, South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk announced that he and his research team had cloned 11 human embryos for the purpose of extracting stem cells. However, after reviewing his work, a panel at Seoul National University concluded tha­t his findings were false. There ­hasn't been any confirmed human clone created to date. When discussing cloning in the sense of doing so to make a duplicate of an organism, we refer to it as reproductive cloning


­If human reproductive cloning proceeds, the primary method scientists will likely use is somatic ce­ll nuclear transfer (SCNT), which is the same procedure that was used to create Dolly the sheep. Somatic cell nuclear transfer begins when doctors take the egg from a female donor and remove its nucleus, creating an enucleated egg. A cell, which contains DNA, is taken from the person who is being cloned. Then the enucleated egg is fused together with the cloning subject's cell using electricity. This creates an embryo, which is implanted into a surrogate mother through in vitro fertilization.

If the procedure is successful, then the surrogate mother will give birth to a baby that's a clone of the cloning subject at the end of a normal gestation period. As mentioned before, the success rate for this type of procedure is small, working in only one or two out of every 100 embryos. After all, Dolly was the result of 277 previously failed attempts.

­On the surface, human cloning may evoke a similar reaction to the space program's race to the moon -- groundbreaking accomplishment, but what could we actually glean from it? Re-engineering the human reproductive process has made many people nervous that cloning crosses the ethical boundaries of science. But we can't fully evaluate the moral dilemma without first addressing the potential benefits of human cloning.