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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, Jaenisch explains.

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 do."

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 stopped."

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 California legislature.

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."

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