Two fertility experts intend to use human cloning as a treatment for couples affected by male infertility. Dr Panayiotis M Zavos of the University of Kentucky and his Italian colleague Dr Severino Antinori announced their plans at press conferences held last week in Rome and Kentucky.
The two doctors say they have ten couples waiting to take part in the experiments, but are looking for up to 50 more. They also claim to have recruited an international team of doctors and researchers, who will carry out the project on an unnamed Mediterranean island. But the plans have been widely condemned by most cloning and reproductive medicine experts. 'It's unethical and it's medical cowboy behaviour' said Professor Michael Soules, of the University of Washington School of Medicine. Rudolph Jaenisch, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, told the Los Angeles Times that 'there will very likely be defects and this is very irresponsible'.
The scientists plan to use somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the 'Dolly' technique, to create babies with a genetic make-up almost identical to that of their fathers. They aim to fuse the DNA taken from a single skin cell with an egg from the mother, stripped of its own genetic material. The resulting embryos will then be implanted in the mother's womb. Antinori said the procedure will only be offered to couples affected by male infertility, saying that other cases (such as parents seeking to clone a dead child) were not valid.
A spokesman for the UK's Human and Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said yesterday that carrying out a human cloning experiment would be a criminal offence in Britain.
Sources and References
Italian doctor prepares to clone first human being
'Genie out of bottle' on human cloning