University of Leicester genetics expert hits out after
US clone baby claim
Leicester Mercury story, December 31,
Leicester genetics expert Professor
Sir Alec Jeffreys has condemned human cloning as "totally
irresponsible" after a US cult claimed to have created the first cloned
Clonaid, a company linked to the Raelian religious cult, which believes aliens
created life on earth, claimed a baby born on Boxing Day in the US had been
cloned from tissue taken from its mother.
But fertility experts have reacted with scepticism, pointing out that Clonaid
director Brigitte Boisselier produced no scientist or scientific evidence in
support of the claim.
Dr Ian Gibson, Labour chairman of the Commons select committee on science and
technology, challenged the organisation to allow Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys,
the inventor of genetic fingerprinting, to examine the baby.
Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys' team at the University of Leicester used genetic
fingerprinting to verify that Dolly the sheep was a genuine clone in the wake
of claims that it was the result of a scientific mistake or a fraud. The
technique can be used to compare tissue from the cloned offspring to that from
the donor to see if it is identical.
Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys said: "My deep suspicion here is that this
claim is false but if it is true it does raise some huge concerns.
"Cloning tends to produce sickly offspring, when it works, so going
through a process of creating babies at serious risk of abnormality and
malformation is totally irresponsible.
"The real issue here is the motivation of the people who want to clone
either themselves or a dead child. I have serious problems seeing any
justification for wanting to create a quasi-identical twin to someone who is
either living or dead.
"It is absolutely essential the claim by Clonaid is independently
verified. However, I think very careful thought needs to be given to select
the right accredited laboratory in the right country.
"The first round of tests will be most logically carried out in the USA
and the most obvious organisation would be the FBI, as a federal organisation
with no axe to grind."
Clonaid said tests were being carried out by an independent expert and results
would be known early next week.
Britain banned the creation of human clones last year.
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