French Canadian cult cloned first human baby, Catholic Church conmdems it

 

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From: Copy from CTV Canadian News
Date: 12/28/02
Time: 4:02:43 PM
Remote Name: 66.38.184.97

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Updated Sat. Dec. 28 2002 12:55 PM ET

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CTV News StaffA company linked to a Quebec-based UFO cult claims to have produced the world's first cloned baby and plans to bring cloning clinics to the world. But health officials in Ottawa say federal legislation soon to become law will forbid human cloning in Canada.

"The minister is committed to a new law covering human reproductive technology, including banning of human cloning," a spokesperson for Health Minister Anne McLellan said Friday.

"The bill that has been introduced in the House reflects the concerns of Canadians and the values of Canadians," said Farah Mohamed. The bill to ban human cloning in Canada has passed the committee stage and is expected to gain passage early in the new year. Brigitte Boisselier, chief executive of Clonaid, said Friday a cloned seven-pound girl was delivered by Caesarean section a day earlier somewhere outside the United States.

Boisselier said the girl is an exact genetic copy of the American woman who gave birth to her but offered no scientific proof and did not produce the mother or child.

Speaking at a news conference in Hollywood, Fla., she said proof -- in the form of DNA testing by independent experts -- would be available in about nine days.

Boisselier said Clonaid expects to set up cloning clinics, similar to in vitro fertilization centers, in countries around the world.

The Raelian religious sect, which believes extra-terrestrials created life on Earth through genetic engineering and advocates the cloning of humans, created Clonaid in 1997.

Legislation or guidelines to ban human cloning are pending in dozens of countries, including Canada and the U.S. Several countries, including Britain, Israel, Japan and Germany, already have banned it.

The U.S. government is taking a look at Clonaid's claims. The Food and Drug Administration says it will look into whether any of the alleged cloning work was done in the U.S. While the U.S. has no specific law against human cloning, the FDA has said its rules forbid human cloning without prior agency permission. Boisselier would not say where Clonaid has been carrying out its experiments.

The Canadian law would also ban the cloning of human embryos for research or therapeutic purposes. With files from Canadian Press

 


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Updated Sat. Dec. 28 2002 8:06 AM ET

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CTV News StaffA scientist connected with Clonaid, a company founded by the Quebec-based UFO cult know as the Raelians, announced Friday that the world's first cloned baby, a girl named Eve, had been delivered by caesarean section a day earlier.

"I'm very very pleased to announce that the first baby clone is born," Clonaid head Brigitte Boisselier, a former research chemist from France, said at a news conference in Hollywood, Fla.

She said the infant, weighing seven pounds (3.1 kg), was delivered on Dec. 26 at 11:55 a.m.Boisselier did not present DNA evidence showing a genetic match between a gene donor and the baby -- an omission that leaves her claim scientifically unsupported.

"The baby is very healthy. She's doing fine," she said. Boisellier, who wouldn't reveal where the baby was born, said the child is a clone of a 31-year-old American woman whose husband is infertile.

Boisellier said the woman donated her DNA for the cloning process and also carried the baby. If confirmed, that would make the child an exact genetic duplicate of her mother. Neither the baby nor the mother, who Boisellier said was not a member of the Raelians sect, was present at the announcement.

Boisellier said an independent expert will take DNA samples from the donor and the baby to prove she had been cloned. Test results are expected within about nine days.Boisselier said she accepted an offer by former ABC News science editor Michael Guillen, now a freelance journalist, to facilitate the testing.

Guillen said he has no connection to Clonaid, and told the news conference he has chosen "world-class, independent experts" to draw DNA from the mother and the newborn and test them for a match.

Cloning and the lawMeanwhile, the U.S. government is taking a look at Clonaid's claims. The Food and Drug Administration says it will look into whether any of the alleged cloning work was done in the U.S. While the U.S. has no specific law against human cloning, the FDA has said its rules forbid human cloning without prior agency permission.

It was not clear what steps the FDA would take, but a source said the agency plans to ask Clonaid exactly where the alleged cloning took place.

The White House said Friday U.S. President George Bush is "deeply" troubled by efforts to clone human beings and wants Congress to ban the practice.

"The president believes, like most Americans, that human cloning is deeply troubling and he strongly supports legislation banning all human cloning," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"Despite the widespread skepticism among scientists and medical professionals about today's announcement, it underscores the need for the new Congress to act on bipartisan legislation to ban all human cloning.

"Raelian belief system supports cloningThe Raelians, who believe extra-terrestrials created life on Earth through genetic engineering and advocate the cloning of humans, created Clonaid in 1997.

The company's web site says its "main goal is to give life to the first human clone."Experts were quick to question Boisselier's assertion that the baby was born healthy and unaffected by the cloning process. Cloning research has produced many deformed and dead animals.

"We don't know that the baby is healthy. Even if the baby was born healthy, there is a chance the baby will get sick and suffer later on in life," Dr. Peter Singer, Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, told CTV Newsnet."What we know, for instance, from Dolly the sheep, is Dolly was born healthy and then later had premature aging and arthritis," he added.Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned, was created in 1997.

She later developed arthritis at an abnormally young age, but one of her creators said earlier this year it was unclear if the condition was related to the cloning.

Scientists say human cloning by a private company is an unlikely achievement but is not impossible.

"My first reaction is 'Is it true?' And we still don't have the proof that it is. We haven't seen a baby. We don't know whether she's healthy.

We haven't seen any genetic tests that show the baby is genetically identical to the mother. So it's possible it is true, but we don't yet have the proof that it is," said Singer.To make a clone, scientists take DNA from a cell and inject it into a hollowed-out egg from a young woman donor.

The egg is then subjected to a jolt of electricity that begins the formation of an embryo.At least one doctor says Clonaid's claims are all the more plausible because they have a number of young women followers who are willing egg donors.

In Rome, fertility doctor Severino Antinori, who said weeks ago that a cloned baby boy would be born in January, dismissed Clonaid's claims and said the group has no scientific credibility.The Raelians, who claim 55,000 members worldwide, believe human life was created by DNA brought to earth by an alien race.

Their founder and leader is Rael, a former French journalist known as Claude Vorilhon.The group's headquarters, called UFO Land, are located in Valcourt, Que., about 200 km east of Montreal.With files from the Associated Press

 


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Updated Fri. Dec. 20 2002 3:53 AM ET

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CTV News StaffNews that an international fringe religion based in Quebec is about to make human cloning a reality has ignited the human cloning debate across the country.

The Raelian movement has said that a baby girl, a genetic duplicate of her mother, is expected to be born in the next 14 days. The group, which believes that space aliens created everything on Earth in a lab 25,000 years ago, founded a company called Clonaid in 1997. The company's website says its "main goal is to give life to the first human clone.

"Brigitte Boisselier, a biochemist and director of Clonaid, said in a phone interview the company successfully implanted 10 cloned embryos.

She said the company perfected its technique after practising on 300 embryos.Clonaid said five pregnancies ended in miscarriage but that five are doing well.

The first baby will be born via caesarean section at an undisclosed facility, Clonaid said.The company's claim is that the girl is the genetic duplicate, or clone, of the mother, an American woman in her 30s.

If the group succeeds, they could soon be breaking the law. The Canadian government hopes to pass Bill C-13 -- also known as the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill -- sometime in the New Year.

The legislation will ban human cloning but will allow other reproductive technologies, with regulations."I think it's taken far too long for the government to act on this," said Suzanne Scorsone, who served on Canada's Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies.

The commission filed its report in 1993.However, Rudolf Jaenisch, a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fears that banning cloning outright could harm beneficial research, such as therapeutic cloning, which is used to generate tissues and spare organs.

"I am afraid the public in this country and other countries will be so influenced by these actions that it could enact legislation that could impede beneficial research," Jaenisch said.

Many health agencies around the world are calling for a global ban on human cloning. Earlier this year, such legislation was proposed but has yet to be approved."There's well over two dozen countries who already have legislation banning human reproductive cloning," said Dr.

Patricia Baird of the University of British Columbia. "We have needed it in this country and I hope we get it soon. "More pregnancies plannedClonaid told CTV's Avis Favaro that it has four more viable pregnancies due in February and that it plans to implant another 20 cloned embryos next month.

Favaro said the company has given the rights to film the development in the next two weeks to an American film production company and that it will be allowed to do the blood testing -- the DNA fingerprinting -- to see if this is a clone.

Scientists say it's an unlikely achievement but it's not impossible. "It has been possible after many attempts to clone other mammalian species," said Prof. Lawrence Smith of the University of Montreal.

"There's no reason to think that human beings would be any different than other animals."To make a clone, scientists take DNA from an adult cell and inject it into a hollowed-out egg from a young woman donor. The egg is then subjected to a jolt of electricity that begins the formation of an embryo.

At least one doctor says Clonaid's claims are all the more plausible because, with the Raelians, they have a large number of young women followers who are willing egg donors.

"It is certainly possible that they have accomplished what they say they have done," said Prof. Lee Silver, a bioethicist at Princeton University. "The only way to prove it will be to get DNA from the baby and match it with the donor. And if they do match, the baby is a clone of that donor."Other experts say that even if cloning were possible, the babies would likely be born with severe defects.

Cloning research has produced many deformed and dead animals."These people who have claimed to clone humans, first of all they are highly irresponsible," said Jaenisch. "If they really do it, they will produce abnormal cloned humans."Baird, who led the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies, told Canada AM that she agrees that the group is being highly irresponsible and cruel.

"The great majority of cloned embryos that are inserted never come to birth. There are a lot of miscarriages, a lot of stillbirths. Then in the few percent that do come to birth, there are abnormalities. "Even if they seem normal at the beginning, they develop heart problems, developmental delays, all kinds of problems have occurred in the animals. "So with that kind of background in the animal work, to go ahead and do this in humans is really, I think, cruel and completely inappropriate," Baird says.

The Raelians are reported to be in a race with controversial Italian doctor Severino Antinori, who has said he would deliver the first cloned human in January 2003. The RaeliansThe Raelians, who claim 55,000 members worldwide, believe human life was created by DNA brought to Earth by an alien race.

Their founder and leader is Rael, a former French journalist known as Claude Vorilhon. He was also a French race car driver.

"They believe that we were all created by extraterrestrials in test tubes," said cult expert Mike Kropveld. "They believe, in effect, that we were cloned by our founders."Among those they have contacted for possible cloning is the legendary vampire Dracula.

Spokesperson Boisselier said he's alive and living in Berlin. She said she has learned to laugh at skeptics."People are calling me Frankenstein," she said.

"I tell them, imagine Frankenstein is calling Dracula. That should make people laugh a lot."The group's headquarters, called UFO Land, are located in Valcourt, Que., about 200 kilometres east of Montreal.With reports from CTV's Avis Favaro, Jed Kahane, Aphrodite Salas and The Canadian Press

 


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Updated Thurs. Dec. 19 2002 8:08 PM ET

Experts doubt human clone claim by Raelians

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Canadian PressTORONTO An ordinary looking sheep named Dolly made history in 1997 as the first cloned mammal. Many of the clones that have followed in Dolly's wake have looked anything but ordinary.

Regardless of what the future holds for the science of cloning, experts say the present does not hold enough information or skill for the process to be used reliably and safely in humans. "All the people who've cloned mice and so on would tell you that right now this is so inefficient and the chances of abnormalities so high that they would not, for safety reasons, propose that human cloning be undertaken - let alone the ethical concerns," says Janet Rossant, a senior investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

"I think it's very unlikely that anyone is going to have success at this on the short term." A Quebec-based religious cult known as the Raelians has announced an American woman will give birth within days to a clone of herself. The cult has declared its intention to clone humans in the past, but has never allowed outside investigators to scrutinize the work, nor has it shared results with the rest of the scientific world via medical and scientific journals. Their latest claim - along with those of two rival and equally secretive groups who insist they are on the verge of the same feat - is greeted with deep skepticism within the scientific world. That's because the much trumpeted cloning successes - since Dolly, scientists have cloned mice, cows, pigs, goats and cats - are vastly outnumbered by cloning failures. The process, called nuclear transfer, works like this: researchers take an egg from a female mammal and a cell containing DNA from a mammal of the same species.

The nucleus from the egg is removed and is replaced with the nucleus from the cell. The two are fused using an electrical shock.

When the egg begins to divide, it is implanted into the uterus of a host female. The resulting offspring, if one survives, is a clone of the animal from which the cell was taken. But more often than not, the process does not work. In fact, it's been estimated that as many as 97 per cent of cloning attempts fail.

"The reason for this we don't fully understand but what we know is getting the DNA to get properly reprogrammed - putting it back in the eggs - seems to be harder than we thought," Rossant says.

Scientists at Texas A & M University announced earlier this year that they had logged another cloning first, a cat. The kitten, aptly named "cc", was the only live cat produced from 87 cloned embryos that were implanted into eight female cats. That's in line with other cloning efforts.

"In all cases the efficiency has been very, very low," says Rossant, who also teaches in the University of Toronto's department of medical genetics and microbiology.

"That is to say for the starting number of eggs, the resulting number of live births is very, very low. . . . And even when successful, the animals are not usually very normal.

Some look relatively normal but many have abnormalities. So this is a real problem." Dolly is a good example. Researchers at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, where she was created, revealed this year that she has arthritis. They believe the premature onset of this ailment may be a product of the fact Dolly was cloned.

Experts have speculated that cloned animals might have a shorter lifespan. It is certainly known that premature aging isn't the only problem clones face. "Nearly every cloned animal in any species has something called large offspring syndrome. The babies that are born are very big," Rossant said.

An American researcher reported last year that work on cloned monkey embryos showed a host of problems. Even embryos that looked healthy were a "gallery of horrors," Tanja Dominko said when she presented results of the work at a conference in Washington, D.C. Dominko did the work at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Centre.