What Would You Do to Have a Baby?
Send in the Clones
To Clone or Not to Clone? continued...
"Dolly the cloned sheep is grossly obese, and probably not
normal," says Rudolf Jaenisch, MD. "Molly the cloned cow dropped dead
in the field one day for unknown reasons."
Jaenisch, a professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in Boston and a pioneer in animal models of gene transfer, is
concerned that clones could have subtle genetic defects showing up later, with
tragic consequences like brain damage.
"We can't assess that in a sheep that just eats grass all
day," he says.
Possible risks to the mother include the relatively gargantuan
size of the fetus. Because of the clone's excessive weight and a placenta seven
times normal size, a cesarean section is always needed in cloned animals,
If cloning works as rarely in humans as in animals, 95 to 99 of
every 100 pregnancies would fail, causing physical and emotional trauma for the
mother, he says.
Bouncing Baby Clone
"It was hit or miss before, but now the race is on,"
Zavos counters. "Acceleration of cloning developments will be astounding,
once humans are thrown into the equation. It's amazing what we humans can
In humans, Zavos claims he will screen embryos for disease and
genetic abnormalities, then transfer only those likely to implant themselves
into the mother's womb.
"We're not sure that babies won't be born with defects, but
to aim for perfection is our goal. We're just humble human beings wanting to
assist couples in having a child," he says.
Jaenisch and others contend that screening may be inaccurate or
misleading: "It is totally irresponsible to undertake reproductive cloning.
People who want to do this are misleading the public and should be
Even more compelling than the medical risks are the ethical
concerns, Patricia A. Baird, MD, tells WebMD.
"Human reproductive cloning is unethical and unsafe and
should be prohibited," says Baird, a University Distinguished Professor of
Medicine at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
As polls indicate that 90% of society opposes human cloning, a
democratic government cannot ethically support it, she testified before the
Who would decide who gets cloned? In the absence of public
funding, those who can afford it will be first in line.
Earlier Clonaid publicity suggested that the parents planning
to clone their dead daughter were investing $1 million in the company and would
pay $500,000 for the cloning attempt, after which they might profit from
clonings of other babies, at prices "as low as $200,000."
Now the web site suggests that "the next clients on the
list will be chosen according to their bid (for financial priority reasons) so
that the money collected will help improve the technique from which everyone
will benefit in the end."