Jan. 7, 2003 PITTSBURGH, Jan. 6 – In reaction to the recent claim by Clonaid that it had produced the first human clone, three international cloning experts emphasized that current cloning techniques have been shown to seriously compromise the health of cloned offspring. Randall Prather, distinguished professor of reproductive biotechnology at the University of Missouri-Columbia; Ian Wilmut, an embryologist at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland; and Gerald Schatten, professor and vice-chair of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences and cell biology-physiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; said that it was highly likely that cloned children would suffer similar problems with their health and this alone should deter scientists from cloning human beings.
"All of the reports from cloning experiments describe a high incidence of late abortion or the birth of dead animals," Prather said. "When live cloned offspring have been produced, many have been subject to abnormalities that were apparent only after birth. These abnormalities include premature death at many different ages, respiratory failure, absence of an immune response and inadequate kidney function. These problems are believed to be a consequence of inappropriate gene expression resulting from incomplete 'reprogramming' of the adult cell used in cloning. There is absolutely no reason to expect the situation to be different in humans. Furthermore, human brain development is far more complex than in animals and the neuropsychiatric consequences for cloned children might be devastating. Until there is compelling and scientifically validated evidence that the situation is different in human embryos it is grossly irresponsible to attempt to clone children."
Wilmut, Schatten and Prather also strongly support independent tests by a respected authority, such as the National Academy of Sciences, to confirm that the DNA of Eve, the baby Clonaid claims is the first human clone, is the same as that of her mother, the nuclear donor who apparently provided the unfertilized egg to produce the child.
"It is essential that independent experts not involved in any aspect of the cloning are present at the collection of DNA samples," Wilmut said. "There must be no possibility of confusion."
"These reported claims underscore the urgency for each country to enact responsible human reproductive cloning legislation," said Schatten, who is also director of the Pittsburgh Development Center at the Magee-Womens Research Institute.
In 1997 Wilmut led the team that produced "Dolly," a sheep cloned from the cells of an adult sheep. The birth of Dolly was a major scientific breakthrough in the effort to clone animals so that their organs may be transplanted to humans. Schatten's team produced "Tetra" a quadruplet born through primate embryo splitting in 2000 and "ANDi", the first transgenic monkey in 2001. His team is discovering unanticipated molecular obstacles to primate cloning. Prather announced in early 2002 that he had successfully cloned the world's first miniature swine with a specific gene removed, or "knocked out," of their DNA. The removal of this gene was a significant step toward the ultimate goal of transplanting animal organs to humans.
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