12/27/02 10:26 PM Inches: 19.1 REGULAR BC-HumanCloning Bjt 12-28 0807
December 28, 2002
AP Science Writer
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A cloning company whose leader believes space aliens launched life on Earth made a splash by claiming it had created the first cloned human.
Now comes the wait for proof.
Cloning experts have said they need to see DNA matching — like the kind used in criminal cases — done by independent experts before they believe Clonaid’s claims. The company announced Friday a baby girl born on Thursday was a clone of her mother. No pictures of the 7-pound baby and no names of the parents were offered, not even a vague location of their whereabouts.
But the attempt at proof will be made quickly, promised free-lance TV journalist Michael Guillen. The former ABC TV science editor said he had chosen an expert who will draw DNA samples from the newborn and her mother.
Guillen, former science editor for ABC News, who said he has no links to Clonaid and is not being paid for his work, said the samples will be submitted to two “world-class independent DNA testing labs,” where other experts will look for a match.
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The results and the experts, whom Guillen did not name, will be made available in perhaps a week to 10 days, he said. The testing “will all be done by the book,” he told reporters.
“I want to be certain that at the end of this process, we can all have confidence in the results, one way or another.”
Clonaid chief executive Brigitte Boisselier, a 46-year-old chemist with two doctoral degrees but no background in cloning, said she agreed to the testing after Guillen suggested it. Beyond the total lack of evidence for her claim was her bizarre connection to the Raelian religious movement.
Clonaid, which will not reveal the locations of its facilities, was founded in the Bahamas in 1997 by the man who founded the Raelian religious sect.
Believers contend their leader, Rael, learned from a visitor from outer space that life on Earth had been created by scientifically advanced extraterrestrials.
Boisselier, a Raelian bishop, says Clonaid is now financially independent of the Raelian group but retains “philosophical” ties. Rael is “my spiritual leader,” she said. “I do believe we’ve been created by scientists … and I’m grateful to them for my life.”
She said neither the infertile couple nor four other couples expected to give birth to clones by early February are Raelians. The other couples include a pair of lesbians from northern Europe, couples from North America and Asia who seek to clone dead children from cells recovered before the deaths, and a second Asian couple, she said. She declined to give more detail.
Twenty more women are currently scheduled to be implanted with cloned embryos to begin pregnancies, she said. Until now, 10 women have been implanted. Five had miscarriages in the first three weeks, and the other five led to “Eve” and the four current pregnancies.
No couple has paid for the cloning effort, but some of the first five couples invested in Clonaid and became business partners, she said. She also said she doesn’t know how much Clonaid will charge once it begins to offer the service commercially.
Cloning experts said they’d reserve judgment on the announcement until they see the promised proof. In Washington, a senior Food and Drug Administration official said Friday that the agency will determine whether any U.S. law was broken involving human experiments.
Boisselier would not say where Clonaid has been carrying out its experiments.
To do the cloning that led to “Eve,” scientists removed the nucleus from an egg of the woman and merged the altered egg with a skin cell from her, Boisselier said. That led the DNA from the mother to take over direction of the egg, leading to an embryo and eventually a baby.
Boisselier said she had received thousands of requests for cloning from couples over the past three years. In addition, “I have been receiving many death threats,” she said.
The notion of human cloning has proven controversial, both because of apparent risks to the baby — cloned animals have shown a host of abnormalities — and because of other ethical considerations.
Boisselier contends that defects seen in cloned animals won’t necessarily appear in humans.
Legislation or guidelines to ban human cloning are pending in dozens of nations, including the United States. Several countries, including Britain, Israel, Japan and Germany, already have banned it. There is no specific law against it in the United States, but the FDA contends it must approve any human experiments in this country.
EDITORS: Associated Press writer John Pain contributed to this report.