The history of cloning is not far from intriguing. We understand cloning as the process of producing genetically identical individuals. This occurs naturally in bacteria, insects and many plants that reproduce asexually, but the biotechnology industry also found the way to make it happen.

The first cloning experiments began in the mid of the XXI century when DNA structure was not fully understood. The first theories of cloning began in the eighties where scientists tried to prove how the DNA and the cell machinery worked. The very early experiments tried to dissect frog embryos and see the characteristics of the resulting animal. Eventually, the very first cloned animal was achieved in 1952.
Cloning Experimentation


In 1944 Maclyn McCarty and Oswald Avery found out that DNA is the material of which genes and chromosomes are made. They thought that this material is what made our identity and contained our genetic information. They knew that both genes and chromosomes where found in the cell nucleus.

Later, in 1953 James D. Watson and Francis Crick finally discovered the structure of DNA. The discovery of the nature of DNA made possible the progress of cloning experiments.

Successful Experiments

The first cloned animal was accomplished in 1952. These were northern leopard frogs that were used in the experiments. Cloning of non-mammals was relatively easy compared to the complexity of cloning vertebrate animals.
Thomas J. King and Robert Briggs were responsible for cloning 35 frog embryos of which 27 of them were born. From this experiment King and Briggs concluded that young cells were more viable than adult cells for cloning since the latter produced rather abnormal individuals.

Cloning of mammals was far more difficult and it was not achieved until 1996 with the first successful clone being Dolly, a healthy born sheep. However, Dolly died of premature death, probably because aged chromosomes where used in her nuclear transfer. Other mammals were rapidly cloned successfully: pigs, mice and cows were being cloned by 1998. The first rabbit was cloned in 2002 and the first mule was created in 2003. In 2004 a bull was cloned from a previously cloned bull, resulting in what is usually called “serial cloning.”  

It was not until 2001 that the first cloned human embryos were produced. Advanced Cell Technology, a private company, produced 6 successfully embryos. However, it was in Korea where the first cloned human blastocyst (a more developed cell) was produced.

Mammal cloning

The meaning behind Cloning

Specially in the last half century high achievements and discoveries have been made in the genetic industry. This allows us great power and control over life itself. This is known largely as Biotechnology and can be understood as a very useful tool for men, but it is also a tool that can be used with the wrong means.

Today, human cloning is forbidden, although there are different points of views and many countries are found to be highly liberal about this topic. The greatest fear, however, is the possibility of falling into a human selection and creation of a high standard race thanks to cloning. This is not far from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, but it is still science fiction to us.

A BBC documentary on Biotechnology possibilities and Synthetic Life