Cloning is the process of producing individuals with identical or virtually identical DNA, either naturally or artificially. In nature, many organisms produce clones through asexual reproduction. Cloning in biotechnology refers to the process of creating clones of organisms or copies of cells or DNA fragments.
The term clone, coined by Herbert J. Webber, is derived from the Ancient Greek word klōn, “twig“, referring to the process whereby a new plant can be created from a twig. In botany, the term lusus was traditionally used. In horticulture, the spelling clon was used until the twentieth century; the final e came into use to indicate the vowel is a “long o” instead of a “short o”. Since the term entered the popular lexicon in a more general context, the spelling clone has been used exclusively.
It is a technique scientists use to make exact genetic copies of living things. Genes, cells, tissues, and even whole animals can all be cloned. Some clones already exist in nature. Single-celled organisms like bacteria make exact copies of themselves each time they reproduce. In humans, identical twins are similar to clones. They share almost the same genes. Identical twins are created when a fertilized egg splits in two.
Scientists also make clones in the lab. They often clone genes to study and better understand them. To clone researchers take DNA from a living creature and insert it into a carrier like bacteria or yeast. Every time that carrier reproduces, a new copy of the gene is made.
In 1996, Scottish scientists cloned the first animal, a sheep they named Dolly. She was cloned using an udder cell taken from an adult sheep. Since then, scientists have cloned cows, cats, deer, horses, and rabbits. They still have not cloned a human, though. In part, this is because it is difficult to produce a viable clone. In each attempt, there can be genetic mistakes that prevent the clone from surviving. It took scientists 276 attempts to get Dolly right. There are also ethical concerns about cloning a human being.