- WASHINGTON (Jan. 6) - A Chicago-area
scientist is poised to start experiments on cloning human beings to create
babies for infertile couples, National Public Radio (NPR) reported Tuesday.
- It said Richard Seed, a physicist who
has done fertility research in the past, was proposing setting up a clinic
that would clone babies for would-be parents.
- ''It is my objective to set up a Human
Clone Clinic in greater Chicago, here, make it a profitable fertility clinic
and when it is profitable to duplicate it in 10 or 20 other locations around
the country and maybe five or six international,'' Seed told NPR.
- NPR said Seed had been negotiating with
a Chicago area clinic, which it declined to name, that had all the equipment
needed to try the procedure.
- Seed could not be immediately reached
for comment. NPR said Seed was working with a medical doctor who declined
to be named, but who said he would not go ahead with experiments unless
the American Society for Reproductive Medicine cleared it. The group currently
opposes human cloning.
- President Clinton has proposed banning
such research for five years, saying it was morally unacceptable and could
undermine society's respect for human life.
- Clinton said the legislation, which would
have to be passed by Congress, would not prohibit the cloning of human
DNA or of animals, arguing this did not pose the same moral questions and
could lead to great medical and agricultural advances.
- While the legislation is pending, Clinton
said the ban on using federal funds to clone humans would stay in effect
and he called on the private sector to voluntarily refrain from it.
- Similar reactions came from the Vatican,
the European Union, and many governments.
- Polls taken shortly after the announcement
of the cloning of Dolly showed 90 percent of Americans opposed human cloning.
- But some fertility experts say cloning
offers hope and opportunities for medicine.
- Britain's Lord Robert Winston, who helped
pioneer test-tube fertilization, called Clinton's reaction ''knee-jerk''
and said the technology offered hope to many infertile couples.
- Seed would have his work cut out for
him. Cloning is not easy. Animals have been cloned from embryos, which
is not the same as cloning an adult animal or human.
- The only mammal to have been cloned from
an adult is Dolly the sheep, cloned by scientists at Scotland's Roslin
Institute and the associated PPL Therapeutics Inc last year.
- But Seed proposes using this same technique,
which involves taking an unfertilized egg from a female, removing the nucleus,
which contains most of the genetic information, and replacing it with the
nucleus of an adult cell.
- The hard part is tricking this egg into
acting as if it has been fertilized by a sperm, thus starting it dividing
as if it were a new baby, instead of just creating more skin cells or liver
cells or cells of whatever organ the nucleus was taken from.
- John Eppig, a developmental biologist
at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, said no one had done this
in a human.
- ''If the egg is not activated with the
proper signaling mechanisms, then the embryo might not reach an implantation
stage, or it might not have the proper proportions of cells in order to
support normal development,'' he told NPR.
- ''I would be very concerned about the
health of the fetus and the health of the baby that would come from this.''