THE OMINOUS, STEADY APPROACH OF
Dolly, the Scottish sheep, was only the beginning. The cloning of human beings is coming. In this article, you will learn the history of this terrible medical experiment, why it is going to take place and why it will miserably fail.
Fact: The British Government has approved the cloning of humans.
Fact: An Italian medical expert says he is going to begin cloning humans within a few months.
Fact: Believing the advantages far outweigh any possible dangers, there are said to be thousands of couples who want a cloned baby.
Fact: There are firms on the internet which, for $40,000, offer to freeze eggs for future cloning.
Fact: Knowledgeable experts in the field say that, for the better or worse, human cloning is inevitable.
Four thousand times a day on our planet, the Creator splits a human cell in two and starts identical twins growing. Modern man thinks he can produce a twin just as efficiently, but he is bound to fail. This article will explain why.
Four years ago, a group of Scottish scientists, under the direction of Ian Wilmut, announced that they had successfully cloned a sheep. The baby sheep was given the name, "Dolly." But Wilmut is now totally shocked by what their research has led to. He says his team was only trying to help farmers produce genetically improved sheep.
The team that cloned Dolly waited seven months before announcing her existence. Up until that time, scientists believed it was impossible to clone a mammal from an adult cell.
Twenty years ago, in-vitro fertilization was thought to be impossible, but then it was done. And now researchers on several continents want to duplicate Dolly's success, but with human eggs.
There are now thousands of people who want to have a child by cloning. They are willing to pay lots of money to have it done. Where there is such demand, with plenty of cash offered, there is sure to be those willing to provide them with the desired product.
Some couples, who are childless, want a clone made of the husband or the wife. There are single men who want a child cloned from themselves. There are both homosexual and lesbian partners who want cloned children. There are parents whose child has died, who want a clone of the dead child. Scientists say the necessary DNA can be extracted from a tooth or even a lock of hair.
Southern Cross Genetics, an Australian firm, was founded three years ago, to preserve DNA for future cloning. (Their charge is U.S. $2,500 to do a genetic profile and place it in long-term storage.) Graeme Sloan, its founder, recently sold the company to a French firm which plans to expand operations.
In January, 2001, Panayiotis Zavos of the University of Kentucky announced that he and Italian researcher Severino Antinori were forming a consortium to produce the first human clone.
The scientists who work on the Clonaid project (operated by the Raelians, a sect dedicated to being the first to meet extraterrestrials from other planets) say they are willing to clone a dead child. They claim to already have a supply of cash-in-hand donors and frozen eggs from them. They have already started cloning some eggs.
In early February in a U.S. Clonaid laboratory (the Raelians will not say where), 15 eggs were taken from the ovaries of a young woman and the cloning process was begun. What is that process?
The nucleus of each egg is sucked out with a fine needle, and discarded. This removes all the DNA from those eggs. The eggs are then placed next to donor cells (which contain DNA). A very small amount of electricity is then sent through the fluid the material is inand the two fuse into one. Some of the restructured cells divide, to form embryos.
The new hybrid cell no longer has the genes of the individual who provided the egg, but instead has the DNA of donor material (possibly from the tooth or lock of hair, mentioned earlier).
Once the single cell has developed into six to eight cells, the next step is to follow the standard technology for assisted reproduction: The egg is carefully placed into a surrogate woman's womb in the hope that it will implant. (The Raelians say they already have 50 women surrogates for carrying eggs to full term.)
According to a statement made in early February by Brigitte Boisselier, Clonaids scientific director, they will have a cloned human embryo growing in a surrogate mother by the time you read this tract.
It surely does look as if cloning is here to stay. Yet I predict that it will miserably fail. Here is why:
According to experts, the production of a single viable clone would require scores of volunteers to donate eggs and carry embryos. Most of the fetuses will have major abnormalities and never come to term.
A large number (perhaps all) of the clones who actually survive are born will have a variety of problems, major or minor. Some may not manifest themselves for a number of years.
It has been theorized that, in order to produce one cloned human child, 400 eggs from about 40 donor women would be required, along with 50 surrogate mothers (not necessarily all at once) carrying the eggs. Each surrogate mother would be given several eggs, since most would not implant. This should theoretically produce nine or 10 pregnancies.
Of these, most will terminate early by miscarriage or abortion when abnormalities are found. One viable baby would be produced.
But that baby might not be normal.
Is the above theoretical analysis correct? We shall soon see. But even if bringing cloned babies to birth occurs more frequently, the potential damage to the child remains a very real likelihood.
Gregory Pence, a professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and author of Whos Afraid of Human Cloning? says, "If the first baby is defective, cloning will be banned for the next 100 years."
Whether or not that is true, you can know that if enough damaged cloned babies are born, it will frighten most people from having it done, and/or governments will enact legislation banning the procedure.
Of course, if perfect babies are born, who grow into perfect children, that would change the entire situation, and thousands will want to have cloned children! But it is the studied position of the present writer that the horror stories will outnumber the successes.
Mark Westhusin at Texas A&M University, has tried for years to clone a dog, now 13 years old. Its California billionaire owner has so far, given the university $3.7 million to try to clone his pet; so far it is without success. The unnamed billionaire says he will provide any amount of money to clone his pet.
Ian Wilmut, the scientist who produced Dolly the sheep, ought to know what he is talking about; for he is the pioneer researcher who has worked at cloning longer than anyone else. He has seen many, many failures in his efforts to clone livestock. Wilmut says that attempts to clone humans is "criminally irresponsible." In addition to several sheep, mice, goats, and cows have been cloned.
After four years of practice at cloning animals by several laboratories, the failure rate is still overwhelming: 98% of embryos never implant or die off during gestation or soon after birth. Animals that survive can be nearly twice as big at birth as is normal or have extra-large organs, poor immune systems, or heart trouble.
Dolly's mother was only six years old when she was cloned. That may explain why Dolly's cells show signs of being older than they actually are. This deviation raises the possibility that beings produced by cloning adults will age abnormally fast. At conception, they were already old. A key problem is there is no way to identify the subtle but equally damaging problems prior to birth. If a child with no brains is born, do the cloners then kill him?
Wilmut considers it almost a certainty that cloned human children would be born with similar maladies. But we don't euthanatize babies, as Wilmut does with the cloned sheep which are born with a variety of problems. Most cloned children would probably die prematurely. "It seems such a profound irony," Wilmut says, "that in trying to make a copy of a child who has died tragically, one of the most likely outcomes is another dead child."
Although a February poll indicated that 90% of Americans do not favor cloning humans, an increasing number of people want clones made for them.
Princeton biologist Lee Silver says fertility specialists have told him they have no problem with cloning and would be happy to provide it as a service to their clients who could afford it. But, Silver adds, those same specialists do not want reporters to know about them yet. They want to be free to produce some successful clones, before state legislatures ban the practice. As this is written, yesterday (March 28) the U.S. House held a hearing on cloning.
Michael West, president of Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology, a biotech company that uses cloning methods to develop human medicines, says his company is concerned that someone will clone a person, and then the government will ban all cloning activity. (Michigan, Rhode Island, Louisiana, and California already have; Texas may soon join them.)
In early February, 160 Roman Catholic bishops and five cardinals met for three days in Irving, Texas, to discuss biotechnology issues--including cloning. To date, the Catholic Church is one of the few denominations to take a strong stand against cloning. David Byers, director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops commission says cloning is mass murder. Just as it does with abortion, our own church is guarded about what it says on the matter. vf