Back in 1997, a group of researchers in Scotland stunned the world by announcing that they had successfully produced a clone of a mammal - the now-famous "Dolly" the sheep. Some people were worried that the discovery of a method for cloning animals would open up a Pandora's box -- creating a world of organ farms, armies of identical people, or a race of second-class citizens.
The cloning techniques developed by the researchers at the Roslin Institute have been used to produce cloned mice, cows, and other animals. However, the method is nowhere near foolproof. Hundreds, if not thousands, of attempts are necessary to produce just one viable clone. On average, just 3% of attempts succeed. And despite much talk about human clones, no researchers have yet cloned a human being -- at least, not publicly.
Many researchers question whether cloning people should even be attempted using current techniques. Aside from the ethical concerns, they point to evidence that the present cloning techniques may produce less than perfect copies. The rapid fusion of donor DNA with a host egg cell may lead to errors being introduced into the genetic material, producing unpredictable and possibly serious defects, some say. Writing in the journal Science, cloning researcher Rudolf Jaenisch and Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists responsible for Dolly, said that they "believe attempts to clone human beings at a time when the scientific issues of nuclear cloning have not been clarified are dangerous and irresponsible."
However, there are still those who wish to forge ahead. Dr. Panos Zavos, a fertility doctor in Lexington, Ky., and Dr. Severino Antinori, a fertility doctor in Rome, have announced that they intend to collaborate on experiments into cloning human beings. Another group, Clonaid, calling itself "the first human cloning company," was founded by the leader of an unorthodox religious movement which claims that life on Earth was created through DNA and genetic engineering by a human extraterrestrial race. Both groups are recruiting potential patients.
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