The clones are not coming; they’re already here!
I recently did a bit of research about clones and was amazed at what I found.
Yes, I knew that some famous horses had been cloned, but had not given a lot of thought to the subject.
I knew of mares and stallions that had been cloned for breeding purposes. I also knew that there were uncastrated clones of geldings, but had not really considered the ramifications.
The clones I was aware of were from jumpers, eventers and barrel racers. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the leading discipline for clones is polo! Are you surprised too? Without exaggeration, it is possible that a polo match will soon occur where all of the horses (at least on one team) will be clones. They may or may not be clones of the same original, but they could all be clones nonetheless.
Leading the charge (excuse the pun) in the cloning of polo ponies is a lab in Argentina with a branch in the USA.
When you think of a clone do you assume that it is a 100% identical copy of the original? That was, and likely still is, the common belief.
Did you know that clones can have different markings than the original and even different markings from clone to clone of the same original? True. Such are the characteristics of markings.
Did you know that there is a portion of mitochondrial DNA in the stripped egg (oocyte) that they use to house the DNA of the original before artificially convincing the egg that it is fertilized? That means that the mare that donates the egg, whether she carries the embryo or not, adds her mitochondrial DNA to the mix. It is unclear to me what the full significance of that is at this point, but it is interesting that I found claims that clones are 98%, not 100%, identical to the originals.
I wonder what the percentage will be as testing improves over time.
How do you feel about clones? Do you think that they are too expensive to create to be commonplace? Do you recall how expensive and rare computers or cell phones used to be?
Will you be thrilled to compete against the clone of a former champion? What about competing against five or ten or twenty clones of one or more champions?
Should there be a limit on the number of clones per individual? Who should set such limits?
Do you think clones should have to prove themselves as competitors or should they be able to trade on the record of the original?
Would you breed to a clone or use one as a broodmare?
Would you want to know if the horse you own or are considering buying is the offspring of a clone? Can current testing methods tell the difference?
How do you think registries should handle the issue of clones and the offspring of clones? There have already been court cases over the issue of registering clones and their offspring.
What about the clones of clones? Does anyone know what will happen ‘generation’ after ‘generation’ of cloning? Will using the same oocyte donors or different oocyte donors matter?
Do you believe that safeguards should be in place before clones become even more commonplace? What do you think such safeguards should be?
This is, of course, an oversimplification, but it may spark some research on the part of a few of you. The questions posed in this post are not hypothetical; they are real and they are timely.
Personally, I think that you can fool or manipulate Mother Nature for a while, but that she seems to have a way of re-establishing her superiority in the long run. I’m just not sure how she will do that when it comes to clones and cloning.