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Fertility expert: 'I can clone a human being'

Controversial doctor filmed creating embryos before injecting them into wombs of women wanting cloned babies

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Cady, died aged 10 in a car crash in the US. Her blood cells were frozen and sent to Dr Zavos, who fused them with cow eggs to create cloned human animal hybrid embryos

Cady, died aged 10 in a car crash in the US. Her blood cells were frozen and sent to Dr Zavos, who fused them with cow eggs to create cloned human animal hybrid embryos

A controversial fertility doctor claimed yesterday to have cloned 14 human embryos and transferred 11 of them into the wombs of four women who had been prepared to give birth to cloned babies.

Watch the exclusive video of Panayiotis Zavos creating embryos before injecting them into wombs of women wanting cloned babies

The cloning was recorded by an independent documentary film-maker who has testified to The Independent that the cloning had taken place and that the women were genuinely hoping to become pregnant with the first cloned embryos specifically created for the purposes of human reproduction.

Panayiotis Zavos has broken the ultimate taboo of transferring cloned embryos into the human womb, a procedure that is a criminal offence in Britain and illegal in many other countries. He carried out the work at a secret lab-oratory, probably located in the Middle East where there is no cloning ban. Dr Zavos, a naturalised American, also has fertility clinics in Kentucky and Cyprus, where he was born. His patients – three married couples and a single woman – came from Britain, the United States and an unspecified country in the Middle East.

None of the embryo transfers led to a viable pregnancy but Dr Zavos said yesterday that this was just the "first chapter" in his ongoing and serious attempts at producing a baby cloned from the skin cells of its "parent".

"There is absolutely no doubt about it, and I may not be the one that does it, but the cloned child is coming. There is absolutely no way that it will not happen," Dr Zavos said in an interview yesterday with The Independent.

"If we intensify our efforts we can have a cloned baby within a year or two, but I don't know whether we can intensify our efforts to that extent. We're not really under pressure to deliver a cloned baby to this world. What we are under pressure to do is to deliver a cloned baby that is a healthy one," he said.

His claims are certain to be denounced by mainstream fertility scientists who in 2004 tried to gag Dr Zavos by imploring the British media not to give him the oxygen of publicity without him providing evidence to back up his statements. Despite a lower profile over the past five years, scores of couples have now approached Dr Zavos hoping that he will help them to overcome their infertility by using the same cloning technique that was used to create Dolly the sheep in 1996.

"I get enquiries every day. To date we have had over 100 enquiries and every enquiry is serious. The criteria is that they have to consider human reproductive cloning as the only option available to them after they have exhausted everything else," Dr Zavos said.

"We are not interested in cloning the Michael Jordans and the Michael Jacksons of this world. The rich and the famous don't participate in this."

It took 277 attempts to create Dolly but since then the cloning procedure in animals has been refined and it has now become more efficient, although most experts in the field believe that it is still too dangerous to be allowed as a form of human fertility treatment. Dr Zavos dismissed these fears saying that many of the problems related to animal cloning – such as congenital defects and oversized offspring – have been minimised.


"In the future, when we get serious about executing things correctly, this thing will be very easy to do," he said. "If we find out that this technique does not work, I don't intend to step on dead bodies to achieve something because I don't have that kind of ambition. My ambition is to help people."

Dr Zavos also revealed that he has produced cloned embryos of three dead people, including a 10-year-old child called Cady, who died in a car crash. He did so after being asked by grieving relatives if he could create biological clones of their loved ones.

Dr Zavos fused cells taken from these corpses not with human eggs but with eggs taken from cows that had their own genetic material removed. He did this to create a human-animal hybrid "model" that would allow him to study the cloning procedure.

Dr Zavos emphasised that it was never his intention to transfer any of these hybrid embryos into the wombs of women, despite Cady's mother saying she would sanction this if there was any hope of her child's clone being born.

"I would not transfer those embryos. We never did this in order to transfer those embryos," Dr Zavos said. "The hybrid model is the thing that saved us. It's a model for us to learn. First you develop a model and then you go on to the target. We did not want to experiment on human embryos, which is why we developed the hybrid model."

Dr Zavos is collaborating with Karl Illmensee, who has a long track record in cloning experiments dating back to pioneering studies in the early 1980s. They are about to recruit 10 younger couples in need of fertility treatment for the next chapter in his attempts at producing cloned babies.

"I think we know why we did not have a pregnancy," said Dr Zavos. "I think that the circumstances were not as ideal as we'd like them to be. We've done the four couples so far under the kind of limitations that we were working under.

"We think we know why those four transfers didn't take. I think with better subjects – and there are hundreds of people out there who want to do this – if we choose 10 couples, I think we will get some to carry a pregnancy."

All the cloning attempts, which date back to 2003, were filmed by Peter Williams, a distinguished documentary maker, for the Discovery Channel, which will show the programme tonight at 9pm.

Williams said that he was present at the secret laboratory when the cloning was carried out by Dr Illmensee. "There's never been any question of concealment, because we'd have known about it," Williams said.

The little girl who could 'live' again

Little Cady died aged 10 in a car crash in the US. Her blood cells were frozen and sent to Dr Zavos, who fused them with cow eggs to create cloned human-animal hybrid embryos.

These hybrid embryos were developed in the test tube and used to study the cloning process, but were not transferred into a human womb, despite Cady's mother saying she would sanction this if there was a chance the clone of her little girl could be born. Dr Zavos said he would never transfer hybrid animal clones into the human womb.

However, cells from Cady's "embryo" could in the future be extracted from the frozen hybrid embryo and fused with an empty human egg with its nucleus removed. This double cloning process could produce a human embryo that Dr Zavos said could be transferred into the womb to produce Cady's clone.

Frontiers of fertility: The key questions

Q. What does he claim to have done?

A. Panayiotis Zavos says he has created 14 human embryos and transferred 11 of them into the wombs of four women. Some of these embryos only developed to the four-cell stage before being transferred, but some developed to the 32-cell stage, called a morula. He also claims to have created human-bovine hybrid clones by transferring the cells of dead people into the empty eggs of cows. However, these hybrid embryos were used for research purposes and were not transferred to the womb.

Q. How does this compare to scientists' previous achievements?

A. Other scientists have created human-cloned embryos but not for the purposes of transferring them to wombs in order for women to give birth to babies. Those researchers created cloned human embryos in the test tube to extract stem cells for research. Dr Zavos has gone further (and broken a taboo) by creating embryos specifically for human reproduction, and he has attempted to create a viable pregnancy by transferring the cloned embryos into women.

Q. Hasn't he made similar claims before?

A. In 2004, Dr Zavos claimed to have transferred a cloned human embryo into a woman's womb but did not produce hard evidence. He has now produced more cloned human embryos, some at an advanced stage, and transferred them into the wombs of three more women. An independent documentary maker vouches for him.

Q. Why is this such a controversial thing to do?

A. Studies on animal cloning have shown time and time again that it is unsafe. The cloned animals suffer a higher-than-normal risk of severe developmental problems and the pregnancies often end in miscarriage. Mainstream scientists believe cloning is too dangerous to be used on humans.

Q. How likely is it that he will succeed?

A. He is determined to succeed and has a long line of people eager to sign up to his cloning programme, at a cost of between $45,000 and $75,000. Cloning attempts in other species, including primates, suggest there is no insuperable barrier to cloning humans.

Watch the exclusive video of Panayiotis Zavos performing the cloning procedure

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Comments

nice discovery
[info]franciej wrote:
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 08:22 pm (UTC)

a discovery made by internet marketing experts but in the scientific field, for sure
Human cloning
[info]obeliak wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 12:39 am (UTC)
I am just wondering what is the point of creating human clones? What is the difference between clones and identical twins? Being genetically identical they are still different people.

Olga
Australia, Sydney
Clone....or Bone?
[info]kodak321 wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 01:55 am (UTC)
Olga. The point is, we don't want to create another disaster like you. Your husband informed me of your comment. He's with a tasty number at the....good luck, Winter approaches.
[info]rab4us wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 02:22 am (UTC)
Could this create the first human without a soul? Are we about to witness the "birth" of the Antichrist?
Just a point for discussion.
Disturbed
[info]jocondeus wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 02:37 am (UTC)
I am just so disturbed by the "human/animal hybrid embryo..are there no ethics what's so ever? It obviously takes a sick mind to create such a thing.
Cloning Not Necessary
[info]redroseandy wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 05:46 am (UTC)

http://www.kadir-buxton.com/page3.htm is a website page outlining a low tech method of fertility treatment that makes cloning unecessary.

Tell me. Do you hold any share in this venture
[info]famulla wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 06:10 am (UTC)
Steve
Why don?t you tell him to clone a rat to start with? I am sending 30 Indian Rupees that I have since 1945. The way I see this is. The, laboratory need the light, air condition, the incubators, the food for the infants the as the rats grow their appetite increase, then we need the powder milk, the maid to clean the wastages, the jerry cans, the dust bins, the bigger windows and doors, more doctors to give the inoculations o they could not die of aids. . Tell me. Do you hold any share in this venture?
I thank you
Firozali A. Mulla
dark side of technology
[info]scott1230 wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 06:13 am (UTC)
This story exposes the dark side of the technological imperative, that just because technology enables us to do something, this means we have to do it....

Also, this issue also shows how children have been reduced to objects. If someone can't have one, he will do whatever it takes to make science produce one for him. This is the definition of a consumer good.

And the flip-side of course is abortion, if we don't want it, we can get rid of it.

Why doesn't the world just grow-up and accept responsibility for themselves and their bodies. If God gives you a child, embrace it, or offer it to someone who can't have one.

If you can't have a child, offer to love and take someone else's child, or accept the fact that you can't have a child.

Are we that immature that we can't accept personal disruptions or disappointments in life? If this is the case, society and culture can hardly develop and prosper.
Just what the world needs more humans
[info]voodoojedizin wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 07:04 am (UTC)
Just what the world needs more humans.

The world is overpopulated now, where straining our National Resources and ecosystems to their limit.

If you can't have children without cloning or being implanted, how about adopting a child that is already in this world with out parents.

I'm sorry but this is just sick and twisted in my book. I barbaric mentality of man or woman wanting to propagate his seed. And has very little to do with the love of a child.
test
[info]cheslava_romana wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 07:26 am (UTC)
test
Cloned humans?
[info]dinoratious wrote:
Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 11:21 am (UTC)
Just because something can be done is not a good reason that it should be done. I am very much in favour of science and technology even the furtherance of knowlege for its own sake, but if anything shows the arrogance of humanity this sort of thing does. Too many times has human interference in nature resulted in disaster, as the old saying has it 'we are not as cleaver as we like to think we are'.
Many people say man was made in some god's image, I say man made his god in his own image because he thinks he is god and above nature. Just keep on in this way and something we are responsible for is bound to come right back at us and knock us off our perch.
God is the Creator!!!!
[info]brownbabybird wrote:
Friday, 24 April 2009 at 02:33 am (UTC)
I think this is a very scary realization!!!! Where are the ethics in this behavoir? I am scared by these claims and feel we all need to start praying as God will not stand for this behavoir. It is everywhere right down to the banners that the atheists want to place on the bus. I laugh when they say "there probably is no God so stop worrying..." Probably...it speaks for itself....There is a God and he is watching all the mayheim and is close to return. C. Matttatall
nuff said?
[info]jaffgyp wrote:
Friday, 24 April 2009 at 08:19 am (UTC)
the photo of 'little cady' says it all - making baby dolls for socially and sexually immature/ disadvantaged adults to play mummies and daddies with?
Playing with the Testament
[info]ifrulec wrote:
Friday, 24 April 2009 at 11:00 am (UTC)
The future and success of such experiments will make reality the many horror movies of present.

KC
Cloning
[info]celticwelshman wrote:
Friday, 24 April 2009 at 03:55 pm (UTC)
Human cloning is going to happen at some point in the future, no matter how many of us jump up and down on our hats in protest. I just hope that the event will be as ethical as is possible when it does.

In my opinion, for what it's worth, Zavros is in no way ethical. human/cow hybrids? or chimaera? says it all doesn't it?

However, in the background, simmering away, is the fact that humans in the western world are slowly becoming more infertile ... not that one would actually notice this fact, never the less, it is well documented...so eventually, I suppose it could be said that cloning may be the saviour of the human race at some distant point in the future?
Human cloning
[info]guilhabert wrote:
Sunday, 26 April 2009 at 10:06 am (UTC)
I am not and have never been an enthusiast of human cloning. And I will rater not become one in future, I guess... But on the other hand, if the Western societies continue their demographic degeneration, then, who knows - perhaps it WILL be the way to go, willy nilly...
At any rate it is certainly less unethical than the Westerners' use and abuse of poor Indian women, who, for a very modes pay, do all the "pregnancy work" for them. And this, recently more and more common "practice" generates less outrage than the cloning itself...

Cheers!!!
Unlimited potential
[info]parisb5 wrote:
Sunday, 3 May 2009 at 08:57 am (UTC)
Human cloning is an imperative step in technological development and we need to throw arguments about god aside, science is fact, and there is indisputible evidence that the cloning of humans for the purpose of gathering stem cells has great potential for humanity. Cloning may seem wrong to those who claim to practise "ethics", but is it ethical to deliberately prevent research in a field that could save inumerable lives, not to mention improving the quality of lives for those who have had it reduced by factors outside their control, such as the inability to walk? Cloning in an attempt to regain lost loved ones however, I feel to be misguided, not ethically wrong, but incorrect. The human mind and its identity is a product of its environment, and simply creating a biologically identical entity is not going to bring the dead back. The clone would not retain any memory of who it was, and raising a child in this light would have profound implications on its sense of identity. My stance on this is reflected perhaps, in the value I place on life. I take a pragmatic approach, potential for life is not life, this is why I am pro-choice. I believe that humanity should be given every chance possible to improve the general quality of life, cloning can allow us to do this, everyone deserves a chance to reach their full potential, and god has nothing to do with it.
Lol.. you guys
[info]lostplanet19 wrote:
Sunday, 3 May 2009 at 08:54 pm (UTC)
You guys are missing the point that the parents are seeing....If you were a mother..and your child of whom you have spent 10 years of your life, feeding, playing, caring, and loving suddenly was ripped from you, wrongfully, completely undeserved. I think you just might be desperate enough to do just about anything to get your child back. Your baby. That would be a miracle. Not a freak show, not an object, not a toy. Of course, some adults may be using the cloning in a way that many would percieve as wrong, but that is not the case with the primary mother here. This woman is her own person, she may or may not share all your ideas and opinions on morality and ethics. Just, because a certain religion or practice makes it appear to be completely and utterly sinful and wrong, does not mean that is the trurth. That is your own belief, and that will not affect this woman.