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Top expert says human cloning would lead to deformities and death

by Michael H. Brown

Spirit Daily

         Dr. H. D. Griffin, assistant director at the Scottish institute that cloned Dolly the sheep, told Spirit Daily that attempts to clone humans are unconscionable and will lead in many cases to deformities, fetal death, and shortened life spans if indeed cloned humans are born.

         "Where animals have been cloned, the success rate -- the number of reconstructed embryos that make it to a live birth -- is around one to two percent, and so the process is very inefficient," said Dr. Griffin of the Roslin Institute near Edinburg. "That's the published record. I think you could be sure that there are many experiments that have been tried that have been unsuccessful and therefore don't enter into the statistics. One to two percent is on average what you might expect in cloning of animals." 

         Dr. Griffin pointed out that a recent attempt to clone a gaur, a rare ox, in Iowa ended in failure when the animal died two days after birth [see story].

      So the chances of cloning a human child are low, and the chances that the child would die late in pregnancy or soon after birth seem quite high," said Dr. Griffin, whose company genetically engineers animals for potential agricultural use. "Nobody working in this field knowing the high incidence of failures and the fact that fetuses die late and sometimes are abnormal [our emphasis] would ever contemplate attempting to clone a human child."

         Griffin scoffed at scientists who have vowed to clone the first full-bodied human by 2002.

         "So far research groups around the world have been successful at cloning cattle, sheep, mice, goats, and pigs, but it's not been an easy technology for others to pick up and for example in mice only three groups worldwide have reported the ability to clone mice," he claimed. "Equally competent research groups have attempted to clone rabbits, rats, and monkeys, and have so far been unsuccessful, so there's no guarantee that's it's going to be easy to do in humans. The reprogramming of an adult cell is quite a remarkable feat. Nobody knows how's it's done. It's remarkable that it happens at all. And making it an efficient process where there's high success rate is going to be exceedingly difficult in animals and at the present stage of the technology just on safety grounds it would be wholly irresponsible for anyone to try and clone a child using these techniques."

         Is human cloning going on in secret? Is it true, as rumor has it, that a man who lost a boy to disease more than a year ago plans to fly with a scientist to an in vitro fertilization laboratory in Asia to attempt a clone?

         "I have no particular inside knowledge or way of finding out, and it's not the sort of information we'd be privy to," claimed Griffin, adding that it was "impossible to say" when the first human might be cloned.

         Other attempts at human cloning have been reported, including one by a bizarre cult that wants to reproduce a 10-month-old girl who died last February. The project is being carried out in a secret laboratory in Neveda and has been funded in part with $450,000 given by the parents to Clonaid, the name the organization used to register in the Bahamas. 

         They have announced that they will use the Dolly technology from Scotland, but Dr. Griffin, overseeing operation at the lab where the Dolly technology was developed, says that such claims as well as those of a team composed of an American embryologist, Panos Zavos, and Italian scientist Severino Antinori are preposterous. "I think the enthusiasm is partly related to a desire for publicity," said Griffin. "I know no one who has experience successfully cloning animals who believes this technology should be used in human beings."

         Can we thus rest assured? Is it still a long ways off? Or is there something to the rumors?

         Stay tuned....

          "It's going on," says Father Joseph C. Howard, who works with the American Life League. "There's no question. It has been. I don't know that a human has been gestated or born from a clone, but there's no question that it's been attempted and begun."

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