How can cloning technologies be used?
Recombinant DNA technology is important for learning about other related technologies, such as gene therapy, genetic engineering of organisms, and sequencing genomes. Gene therapy can be used to treat certain genetic conditions by introducing virus vectors that carry corrected copies of faulty genes into the cells of a host organism. Genes from different organisms that improve taste and nutritional value or provide resistance to particular types of disease can be used to genetically engineer food crops. See Genetically Modified Foods and Organisms for more information. With genome sequencing, fragments of chromosomal DNA must be inserted into different cloning vectors to generate fragments of an appropriate size for sequencing. See a diagram on constructing clones for sequencing.
If the low success rates can be improved (Dolly was only one success out of 276 tries), reproductive cloning can be used to develop efficient ways to reliably reproduce animals with special qualities. For example, drug-producing animals or animals that have been genetically altered to serve as models for studying human disease could be mass produced.
Reproductive cloning also could be used to repopulate endangered animals or animals that are difficult to breed. In 2001, the first clone of an endangered wild animal was born, a wild ox called a gaur. The young gaur died from an infection about 48 hours after its birth. In 2001, scientists in Italy reported the successful cloning of a healthy baby mouflon, an endangered wild sheep. The cloned mouflon is living at a wildlife center in Sardinia. Other endangered species that are potential candidates for cloning include the African bongo antelope, the Sumatran tiger, and the giant panda. Cloning extinct animals presents a much greater challenge to scientists because the egg and the surrogate needed to create the cloned embryo would be of a species different from the clone.
Therapeutic cloning technology may some day be used in humans to produce whole organs from single cells or to produce healthy cells that can replace damaged cells in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Much work still needs to be done before therapeutic cloning can become a realistic option for the treatment of disorders.