Last week's ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) conference was warned that human clones could be dangerous. Dr Guido de Wert, a research fellow in Biomedical Ethics from the University of Maastricht, told the conference that he believed that the potential serious health risks that could occur in cloned humans mean that reproductive cloning should be unacceptable at the present.
De Wert did say that there may be reasons to allow reproductive cloning in the future, but that there were currently too many health risks and side-effects linked to cloning, as has been shown in animal models. He said 'as animal research shows, current methods of cloning result in high numbers of miscarriages and higher perinatal mortality and morbidity rates. Many animal clones die in the womb or develop serious deformities including diabetes, bad kidneys and enlarged tongues'. He added that even clones that appear normal may be 'ticking time bombs'.
If the current risks were ever to be eliminated, de Wert believes that the use of reproductive cloning might be justified in some cases. He said that it might be 'used, in principle, to treat some types of infertility, for instance, when a man is unable to produce any germ cells in his sperm'. But he did qualify this by pressing the need for informed public and scientific debate on the ethics of the technique before any definite conclusions were made.
Meanwhile, Professor Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep, has argued for a moratorium on human reproductive cloning. His comments come after a study showed that cloned mice carries a 'high burden' of genetic abnormalities, although they appeared outwardly normal.
Sources and References
Human cloning 'will never be safe'
Timebomb fear over cloning of humans