Scientists plan human cloning clinic in the United States
An international group of reproductive scientists plan to launch a human cloning clinic, which will provide cloning services to infertile couples within 18 months, according to a US infertility specialist, Dr Panayiotis Zavos.
Dr Zavos, a biologist at the University of Kentucky, is not medically qualified but holds a doctorate in reproductive physiology and is an owner and director of two US infertility clinics, the Kentucky Center for Reproductive Medicine and IVF [in vitro fertilisation], and the Andrology Institute of America.
Dr Zavos has formed a partnership with Italian reproductive specialist Dr Severino Antinori. Dr Antinori gained international media attention through pioneering techniques that allowed postmenopausal women, including a 62 year old, to give birth. The two declared their plans at a conference at the Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky.
Their announcement echoes that of Richard Seed, a physicist who made a similar declaration in January 1998, sparking ethical and legal debate (BMJ 1998; 316:167).
The current announcement is considered to be more serious because cloning technology has matured and the principal investigators have experience in treating infertility. The controversy, however, remains. This is largely because reproductive technologies have far outpaced regulatory, legal, ethical, moral, and theological thinking on the matter.
That human cloning is on the horizon seems undisputed. Since Professor Ian Wilmut cloned Dolly the sheep in 1997, the feat has been duplicated in other mammals. Many believe that human cloning efforts are already taking place undercover in some countries.
There is currently a US ban on federal funding of human cloning efforts but no law prohibiting private efforts. Opposition to cloning occurs on many fronts. Because the technology is not yet perfected many believe that the process should not even be attempted on humans. It took 277 attempts to clone Dolly, who was created from a mammary cell of a 6 year old ewe. The 277 attempts yielded a mere 29 embryos, and only one of them survived to term. Multiple flawed embryos are likely to occur with humans as well.
Commenting on plans for a human cloning clinic, Drs Zavos and Antinori emphasised that they would offer the technique only to infertile couples. They claim to have 10 infertile couples already on board.
deborah Josefson San Fransisco
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