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We’re not exactly ready for a real-life Jurassic Park, yet, but cloning technology continues to advance in leaps and bounds.

Witness the latest exploit by scientists at Penn State University who, late last year, announced they had reconstructed almost the entire genome of the extinct Woolly Mammoth — from tiny fragments of skin tissue clinging to hairs from a clump they bought for (US)$130 on eBay from a Russian vendor.

But, as TIME magazine’s Alyssa Fetini reports, serious work on cloning has been under way — in many cases conducted very quietly, to avoid public debate and controversy — for over half a century:

“Though Dolly the sheep was the first clone to be shoved into the limelight, in 1996, the process of human-directed cloning has existed since 1952. In that year, American researchers Robert Briggs and Thomas King successfully removed the nucleus of a tadpole’s embryonic cell and transferred it to a donor cell, cloning 27 tadpoles in the experiment. This groundbreaking achievement landed the scientists the internationally lauded Charles Leopold Mayer Prize of the Académie des Sciences, making them the first Americans in history to receive the award.”

The most recent controversy over cloning came just this past decade, when U.S. President George W. Bush urged the U.S. Congress to ban human cloning in 2002 which resulted in the passage of The Human Cloning Act in 2003. That pleased religious groups who strongly opposed scientists ‘playing God’ but dismayed the medical and scientific communities where great hope was held out for advances in disease treatment and prevention through cloning techniques.

But the U.S. ban did not stop cloning experiments. Just last fall, South Korean scientists announced they had cloned an ultra-sensitive drug-sniffing Labrador retriever — and all seven of her clone puppies share her special talent.

Cloning remains a very low priority for incoming U.S. President Barach Obama in the face of the international economic crisis and the military messes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. However, scientists and physicians are very curious to hear what his administration’s stand will be on cloning and related issues.

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