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Elizabeth Cohen: Cloning humans vs. animals

Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen  

CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen offers some perspective on a report by researchers at Duke University that cloning "may be less complicated in humans than in sheep" because of a subtle genetic difference between humans and most other animals.

Q: Is it really easier to clone a human being than to clone an animal?

A: The overwhelming majority of scientists will tell you: No, it's absolutely not easier to clone a human being than an animal. The news today out of Duke University is that theoretically -- and remember that word -- cloning humans could be slightly less problematic than cloning animals such as rodents, cows, and sheep.

Q: What are some of the problems with cloning animals?

Human cloning easier than thought?  

A: For every apparently healthy clone, such as Dolly the sheep, there are many, many that are born with a wide variety of deformities. Some have organs, including hearts and lungs, that don't work well. Others have impaired immune systems. Still others were born large, sometimes four times larger than normal.

The Duke theory is that because of genetic differences between humans and non-primate animals, human clones would have a higher likelihood of being born at a normal weight.

Q: How sound is the Duke research?

A: Many experts we talked to said the Duke researchers have never cloned animals -- they're just going on a genetic theory. Plus, they add, it doesn't really matter if human clones are born at a normal size, since they still would be likely to have the other problems with organ function and the immune system.

• Duke University Medical Center

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