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What Is a Clone?

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Updated June 29, 2009

all cells have DNA

Cells contain genetic material called DNA

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Definition: The word clone likely first brings to mind news stories about animals created by reproductive cloning. An animal that is a clone is an exact copy of the animal that donated its genetic information (DNA) for its creation.

In oncology, the term is also used to describe a single family/type of cancer cells. Scientists can also clone human genes.

Animal Cloning

Cells contain DNA. In simple terms, to make a clone animal, DNA is removed from one of its cells. This DNA is placed in an egg cell of a female animal; this is done in a lab. This clone egg is then placed in the female animal's womb to grow and develop. This is a very complex scientific procedure, and it is difficult to be successful with it. Most clone animals die before birth.

The first clone animal was a sheep, named Dolly, born in 1996. Since then there have been many other clone animals including mice, cats, goats, pigs, cows, and monkeys. However, there has never been a human clone.

Gene Cloning in Humans

A gene is a specific section of DNA. Scientists can clone genes by transferring them from one organism to another and getting them to replicate. This is called DNA cloning or recombinant DNA technology.

Making a clone of a human embryo is the most controversial type of cloning. Called therapeutic cloning, its purpose is to create human embryos for research. Many people are opposed to this type of cloning because the human embryos are destroyed during the research.

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