Sunday, January 28,
'Genie Out of the
Bottle' on Human Cloning
and Italian announce a joint project to duplicate a person.
By AARON ZITNER,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
well-known Italian fertility specialist and his U.S. colleague
have announced plans
to clone human beings, apparently becoming the first scientists
with expertise in
human reproduction to publicly set such a goal.
may well succeed, cloning experts said Saturday--but not without
would likely produce stillborn and diseased children, they said,
to seek bans on a broad range of medical research, such as work
that uses tissue
from human embryos to try to cure disease.
two scientists stressed that their cloning procedure would be offered
couples who cannot
bear children by other means.
are serious people and have a track record to show for it," said
M. Zavos, professor
of reproductive physiology at the University of Kentucky.
already been developed in animals. The genie is out of the bottle.
matter of time when
humans will apply it to themselves, and we think this is best
initiated by us
. . . with ethical guidelines and quality standards."
said he is working with an Italian researcher, Dr. Severino Antinori,
has already pushed
the boundaries of fertility treatment by helping women become
pregnant well after
menopause, including a 62-year-old woman.
two men announced their plans Thursday at a conference in Lexington,
and Zavos said Saturday
that they had lined up 10 infertile patients who want to be
cloned and 10 other
researchers who want to help. He declined to name any. He said
the work would be
done in an undisclosed foreign country.
experts said the announcement signals that the technology has matured
and that it is bound
to force its way onto the agenda of U.S. politicians and
regulators. No federal
law bars cloning in the United States, although the Food and
has said anyone seeking to use it as a reproductive tool for
humans would need
specialists said they feared Zavos and Antinori might provoke a backlash
research by raising fears that scientists have crossed ethical
the cloning announcement came at a sensitive time: On Friday, President
Bush expressed his
personal opposition to federal funding for research that uses
tissue from aborted
fetuses. Bush's comments raised concern among some scientists
that he might try
to thwart plans to fund fetal- and embryo-cell research, which aims
to cure diabetes,
Parkinson's disease and other ailments.
cloning plan "just invites prohibitions across the board that
shuts down the
very research we
need to cure disease," said Ronald Green, a Dartmouth College
worrisome to some researchers is that when cloning fails, it often
gruesome ways. For
every successfully cloned cow, sheep or goat, dozens of others
fail to grow in
the womb, die at childbirth or perish soon after birth from deformities.
far as cloning a human being, it's definitely an achievable feat--unsafe
unethical, but achievable
with the right resources and know-how," said Dr. Robert P.
Lanza, vice president
of scientific development of Advanced Cell Technology Inc. in
which has cloned cows and goats. "Cloning is conceptually very
simple, so someone
with the drive has a real chance of succeeding."
problem, said Rudolph Jaenisch, a cloning expert at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology,
is that "there will very likely be defects, and this is very
is a process for creating a genetic duplicate of an individual. Although
offspring may not
look or behave exactly like the parent, it has the same genes. In
the four years since
the arrival of Dolly, the famous sheep and the first cloned
have successfully cloned cows, pigs, mice and other animals.
cloning, scientists start with an egg cell. They remove the egg's
insert DNA or even
a whole cell from an adult animal. It was a mammary cell from a
6-year-old ewe that
produced Dolly, but skin and other adult cells have also been
the process works, the egg cell begins dividing and grows into an
The embryo is then
transferred to a surrogate mother and grown to term, just as
human "test-tube" babies
are produced at fertility clinics.
believe that cloning often fails because the adult DNA retains some
features of its
former life as a mammary cell, skin cell or other type of cell. It
277 attempts to
clone Dolly, which produced only 29 embryos that could be
transferred to a
surrogate mother. A single one grew to term and was born as Dolly.
in an interview Saturday, said he was well aware that many cloning
produce flawed embryos.
But he said existing techniques, and those he and his team
hope to develop
soon, would give scientists the ability to determine which embryos
will grow successfully
and which are bound to fail.
are not out there and loose and ready to go," Zavos said from
his home in
are very much aware of this. It will take some experimentation to
to where we need
he added that his goal was to develop viable, cloned human embryos
18 months or two
said he and Antinori would hold an international meeting in Rome
March to consider
ethical guidelines and to continue working out their plan.
noted that many people in the field believe that rogue researchers
working on human
cloning and that they may attempt to sell their services to wealthy
people who want
to clone out of vanity or as "investors who want to make another
56, said he has known Antinori for 15 years and began talking with
about the cloning
project in 1988. Zavos is the president of ZDL Inc., a private
markets infertility products. Government records show that Zavos
has been granted
four patents in the last decade on laboratory devices and
is the director of a Rome-based artificial insemination clinic. He
when he treated a 62-year-old woman with hormones so she
She gave birth to a boy in July 1994.
with his ongoing work in helping older women become pregnant, he
pioneered a technique
to aid sterile men by cultivating their nascent sperm cells inside
the testicles of
could not be reached for comment, but the Lexington Herald-Leader
that he had acknowledged his role in the cloning announcement at
the conference Thursday.
scientists' announcement came days after British lawmakers approved
human cloning for
work reflects the hope that cloning can be used to produce tissues
into patients. It envisions that patients would be cloned and the
grown for several days. Then, scientists would extract the
embryo's stem cells,
the so-called master cells that can become any type of tissue in
stem cells would be grown into new pancreatic cells for diabetics,
for spinal injury
victims or brain cells for people with Parkinson's disease.
say this would bypass a serious problem in many transplants, in which
the patient rejects
the new tissues or organ as "foreign" material. Cloned
thought to be more
readily accepted by the patient's body.
the process of cloning human embryos for medical purposes could yield
would help make it a viable technique for reproduction, specialists
are many teams in the world that are on this project, so I don't
[Zavos] is the only
one," said Lanza. "There are groups in China, Europe,
States, though very
few who are thinking of using this to generate identical human
beings. Most reputable
scientists believe that is crossing an ethical line."