Doctor to clone dead girl and man: report
August 30, 2004 - 2:43PM
Dr. Panos Zavos
A controversial fertility expert is reportedly set to provoke international uproar by claiming he has taken the first step towards cloning a dead girl and man.
London's The Mail on Sunday reported that in what many will regard as a grotesque experiment, maverick American scientist Dr Panos Zavos will announce on television that he has taken DNA material from two corpses and used it to create embryonic clones of the dead people.
Zavos claims he has succeeded in taking DNA from the dead people - an 11-year-old girl called Cady and a 33-year-old man, both of whom died in road accidents - and implanting it into living eggs which subsequently divided in the laboratory to form embryos.
But an attempt to make a third clone, using DNA taken from a dummy and nasal extractor belonging to a baby who died, has so far failed to provide positive results, The Mail on Sunday reported.
It said the controversial experiment was certain to provoke a furious backlash from critics, who will accuse Zavos, from Lexington, Kentucky, of using gruesome "Frankenstein" science and of "playing God".
Earlier this year Zavos claimed to have implanted a cloned human embryo in a woman's womb, the paper said.
The announcement was greeted with derision by mainstream scientists and fertility experts who branded his work 'odious'. He later revealed the attempt had been unsuccessful.
Zavos was to announce details of his macabre new research in London tomorrow, but The Mail on Sunday was given an exclusive preview of a film to be screened on British TV Channel 4 tonight (Tuesday morning AEST).
He claims to be helping three families to create a genetic replica of loved ones who have died.
In a film by award-winning British documentary maker Peter Williams, who recorded the creation of the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978, Zavos claims to have implanted DNA from the corpses into living cow eggs.
These are bigger than a human egg and therefore easier to manipulate.
The cells started to divide to create embryos but were not allowed to go beyond 64 cells.
Zavos says he would never consider putting the resulting 'hybrid' embryos into a human womb - nor could they survive anyway. But he claims the same technique could be used to implant DNA from a corpse into a human egg, creating an embryo that, if implanted into a womb, could develop into a true clone of the dead person.
Although, in the past, Dr Zavos has submitted some of his work to an online medical journal run by Robert Edwards - one of the pioneers of IVF treatment - where it is subject to 'peer review' by acknowledged experts in the field, he has not published his cloning research in more established medical journals.
Nor, apart from the film, is there any independent corroboration of his latest claim. But it comes at a time when the scientific establishment is becoming increasingly anxious to put a halt to unregulated human cloning experiments.
Today, the Royal Society, Britain's most respected scientific institution, and 67 of the world's national science academies was to call on the United Nations to introduce a ban on human reproductive cloning.
Zavos, however, remains unrepentant. He said last night: "This is powerful stuff. If anyone ever accused me of playing God, this is as close as you can get.
"I am not God, I play no God, I just do God's work.
"We are not talking about Hollywood here, we are not talking about fiction, we are talking about the realities of life.
"This even makes me a bit nervous. But we do not see any difference between reproductive cloning and the post-mortem cloning."
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