Claims by maverick fertility doctor Panayiotis Zavos, who says he will soon offer a baby-cloning service to childless couples, have provoked disbelief and annoyance from other scientists. Zavos, who said a month ago that he has a cloned human embryo ready for implantation, is reported to be offering to clone babies for around £100,000 a time. But Professor Hans Evers, chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, said that all the scientific evidence indicates it is 'completely impossible' to clone humans. He added that people like Zavos were 'doing damage to the profession and goodwill we have built up for many years in the area of fertility treatment'. Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the cloned sheep, pointed out that the risk from the procedure to both mothers and children was still very high, adding that 'I would regret this very much if it happened'.
UK newspaper articles said that Zavos would charge couples about £35,000 for an initial consultation and tests to see if they were suitable for cloning. A surrogate mother would then be paid around £20,000 to carry the cloned baby, with the whole procedure costing less than £100,000. Some experts think that Zavos could have the technical wherewithal to undertake the work. 'Zavos is considered more of a scientist than any of the other so-called potential players that have gone public on this' said UK fertility doctor Simon Fishel. But Richard Kennedy, secretary of the British Fertility Society, said that although Zavos was 'technically competent', he should be in prison. 'What he is doing is totally wrong' he said.
Working at an undisclosed location in the Middle East, Zavos says he has created a cloned human embryo using a cell taken from a 46-year old woman, which will be implanted into a surrogate mother later this year. He has also been practising the cloning technique by fusing human cells with cow eggs - studies that he presented at the annual conference of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) last week. Speaking at the meeting, Zavos said that his motivation was his desire to help people who could not have children in the normal way.
Sources and References
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