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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 14:06 GMT
Controversy and the cloning race
By Sophie Hutchinson
Social Affairs Correspondent

Severino Antinori (left) and Panos Zavos
Severino Antinori and Panos Zavos want to create the first human clone
Professor Panos Zavos is a highly controversial figure, who is not adverse to publicity.

He is part of a known handful of scientists in the race to create the first human clone.

Dr Sevrino Antinori in Italy said a cloned child would be born last year and the Raelian cult insists five babies have already been born.

As yet no proof has emerged of any of these.

There are huge concerns about this group of scientists and critics have accused them of striving for scientific fame despite the risks involved.

Animal clones

And it is a risky procedure.

The creation of animal clones is now relatively straightforward: We saw it first with the creation of Dolly the Sheep and since then it's been performed on mice, cats, cows and pigs to name but a few.

It is, however, proving much more difficult to achieve in humans and so far no one has shown evidence of a viable cloned human embryo.

Even if this were achieved, implanting it into a woman is thought to be highly risky for both mother and child. It is feared the placenta would develop serious abnormalities.

There is also concern for the baby itself.

Cloned pigs were created by the same firm that produced Dolly the sheep
In cloned animals there is a high level of abnormal development, and we saw with Dolly the Sheep her premature aging and eventual death.

Just what sort of defects a human clone might develop is completely unknown.

And then there are the ethics of cloning.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is so concerned about Professor Zavos' visit to the UK that it has been prompted to reiterate that human cloning is illegal here.

Professor Zavos says his work may eventually help the huge number of infertile couples, by giving them a chance to have a different sort of baby, but the British Fertility Society is appalled by this and say he's offering false hope.

But despite the huge ethical outcry about this on-going quest to create a human clone, unless it proves technically impossible, much to the horror of many, it seems likely someone will eventually achieve it.

Human cloning 'flawed'
10 Apr 03  |  Science/Nature
Human cloning: Your views
17 Jan 04  |  Have Your Say

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