School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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What's a Clone?

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  • DNA: deoxyribonucleic acid is the information "blue-print" of the cell. It is a nucleic acid and is made from building blocks called nucleotides. This genetic information is passed from parent to child... more
  • Egg: a female gamete, which keeps all the parts of a cell after fusing with a sperm.
  • Gamete: specialized cells found in your reproductive organs that have half the amount of DNA of somatic cells. These cells combine to make a fertilized egg... more
  • Gene: a region of DNA where a specific set of instructions for one trait is kept. We get some of our genes from our mother and some from our father... more
  • Nucleus: where DNA stays in the cell, plural is nuclei.
  • Somatic cells: the cells in your body, except for gametes. Soma is Latin for body.
  • Sperm: a male gamete, which only transfers its DNA to the egg... more

What Makes a Clone a Clone? what's a clone

We just learned that a clone is someone who shares your DNA, like identical twins. What's the big deal then? If we have clones running around, going to school, playing with other kids like you, why is cloning making the evening news? Cloning is such a big deal because of two reasons. Reason number one is that we can do it outside of the mother. Reason number two is that we can put DNA from wherever we want to take it from and put it into another cell.

About thirty years ago, a technology was developed that helped women have babies. This technology is called in vitro fertilization (IVF.) It uses very small instruments to hold an egg in place, while a sperm is inserted into it. This process is repeated for several eggs. These eggs are kept frozen until the mother is ready. When the mother is ready, the cells are placed in her to start dividing and make an embryo.

Scientists thought that the technology could be used to remove a nucleus from a mother's egg and replace it with the nucleus from another cell. This would mean that the egg would not need sperm because the nucleus would be replaced with the nucleus of a somatic cell. Remember that a somatic cell has all the genetic material it needs to live. A gamete has only half the amount of genetic material. Scientists thought that egg cells were the right type of cell because they were young and fresh. They were correct.

Clone Sheep

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Clone Sheep

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.