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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Woman 'pregnant with clone'
Clone, ACT
Human cloning is a fiercely contentious issue
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By Richard Black
The BBC's science correspondent
The Italian fertility doctor who last year announced plans to clone humans has reportedly said that one of the women he has been treating is pregnant with an embryo clone.

Dr Severino Antinori made the comments to a reporter for the Gulf News following a medical conference in the United Arab Emirates.

He said that one of the women in his care is eight weeks pregnant with a foetus that has been produced using cloning technology.

He refused to give any further details, and his office in Rome would not confirm or deny the story to the BBC.

Controversial views

In the middle of last year, Dr Antinori was one of three doctors who told the world of their plans to clone humans.

Dr Severino Antinori
Dr Antinori defends his research saying he is helping infertile couples
He has been quoted as saying he views cloning as just another form of assisted reproduction - one stage on from in-vitro fertilisation.

Since the announcement, Dr Antinori has largely been shunned by the scientific establishment, with many prominent researchers describing his plans as irresponsible.

Animal cloning has low rates of success, and there is evidence that surviving animals are prone to poor health and genetic defects.

'Empty publicity'

If Dr Antinori really has attempted to clone a human, the implications will be enormous.

If the pregnancy is successful, many other doctors will want to follow his lead - but a failure would provide renewed impetus for a global ban on human cloning, which the United Nations is working towards.

The British bioethicist Dr Donald Bruce said he thought the latest news was just "empty publicity".

"If it was true, a responsible scientist would announce such an event in the proper way," said the director of the Church of Scotland's Society, Religion and Technology Project.

See also:

07 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Profile: Dr Severino Antinori
19 Dec 01 | Europe
Scientist warns on human cloning
27 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
The cloning debate
29 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Rabbits join the cloning club
27 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Lords back cloning research
29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Human cloning ban 'to become law'
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