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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Clone 'would feel individuality'
Egg being fertilized
Human reproductive cloning is currently not allowed in the UK
A cloned human would probably consider themselves to be an individual, a study suggests.

Scientists drew their conclusions after interviewing identical twins about their experiences of sharing exactly the same genes with somebody else.

The team said the twins believed their genes played a limited role in shaping their identity.

The UK/Austrian research will shortly be published in the journal of Social Science and Medicine.

Co-author Dr Barbara Prainsack, from the University of Vienna, Austria, who worked with Professor Tim Spector, from the Twins Research Unit, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK, said: "The birth of Dolly the sheep triggered many questions about what it would be like to be a clone.

"We don't have clones we can interview - but we do have identical twins."

This interesting study reveals how we should not have any prejudiced feelings about the idea of genetically identical individuals living amongst us
Professor Lovell-Badge

Identical twins are created when a single egg, fertilised by a single sperm, splits into two separate, but genetically identical, embryos.

The researchers said because twins - like potential clones - shared the same genes, they offered the only existing method of studying the feelings a clone might experience.

But they also emphasised twins would differ from clones because they are born at the same time, whereas clones would differ in age.

One of a pair?

The scientists carried out 17 interviews of identical, non-identical and non-twin siblings.

The identical twins said being a twin did not compromise their individuality - although they pointed out that people often had preconceptions that they were one of a pair rather than individuals.

Those interviewed viewed being an identical twin as a blessing, and said they would not rather be a non-identical twin or a "singleton".

They also said they believed their genes had no great bearing on their relationship with their twin and their identity.

The twins felt factors such as being brought up in the same environment, having spent a large part of their lives together, and being treated in a similar way by their parents were more important.

One interviewee said: "We spent 20 years together, and so that was a close experience. And that hasn't changed all of these years we've been apart. So I don't feel that genetics made any difference."

From these findings the scientists said they could assume a clone would probably not feel their individuality was compromised by sharing genes with someone else; that their relationship with their co-clone was a blessing; and their uniqueness was not a negative thing.

Dr Prainsack said: "According to the genetically identical people in our study, the problem would not be genetic sameness, but more the motives with which somebody would determine somebody else's genome.

"The cloning debate would benefit from shifting away its focus from genetic sameness to looking more at social reasons for why the deliberate creation of human beings with a certain genetic make-up could hurt society."

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, a geneticist from the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research, London, said: "Human reproductive cloning is not safe and should not be attempted with current knowledge.

"In my opinion, there are no strong reasons for even attempting it.

"But this is an interesting study and, although small, reveals how we should not have any prejudiced feelings about the idea of genetically identical individuals living amongst us."

Think twice
03 Jul 06 |  Magazine

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