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Health & Pregnancy

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What Would You Do to Have a Baby?

Send in the Clones

To Clone or Not to Clone?

As in the case of the atom bomb, say cloning critics, just because we have the technology doesn't mean we should use it. With human cloning, experts raise serious practical as well as ethical issues that call the technology itself into question.

"Cloning mammals has been thus far a dismal record of failures -- dead, dying, and deformed clones, and threats to the health and life of the females bearing cloned fetuses," Thomas H. Murray, PhD, president of the Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y., tells WebMD.

"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."

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