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Team to attempt human cloning

Plan attacked by many scientific and religious groups

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The successful 1997 cloning of Dolly the sheep, left, came only after 277 attempts to get it right  

March 9, 2001
Web posted at: 12:29 PM EST (1729 GMT)


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Summary: Despite detractors' claims of immorality, an international group of fertility experts gave details on Friday of their plans to become the first scientists to clone a human being. The team of scientists made their announcement in Rome, Italy, home to one of human cloning's most well-known and harshest critics, Pope John Paul II, who has called the mere prospect of clones "morally unacceptable."

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- An international group of fertility experts has announced details of their plans to be the first scientists to clone a human being.

The group, meeting in Rome, discussed their strategy for human and so-called therapeutic cloning to help tackle a range of degenerative diseases.

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The plan has come under heavy fire from scientific and religious camps and has been attacked as "grotesque" by the Vatican.

The team includes Italian obstetrician Severino Antinori, who became famous for helping a 62-year-old woman give birth.

Antinor said: "Cloning creates ordinary children. They will be unique individuals, not photocopies of individuals."

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, head of the John Paul II Institute for Bioethics at Rome's Gemelli hospital, said human cloning raised profoundly disturbing ethical issues.

"Those who made the atomic bomb went ahead in spite of knowing about its terrible destruction," he said before the cloning meeting started. "But this doesn't mean that it was the best choice for humanity."

Dr. Ian Wilmut, who created Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, said it took 277 tries to get it right.

Other cloning attempts have ended in malformed animals and experts say the technique fails in 97 percent of cases.

Antinori and his partner, U.S. scientist Panayiotis Zavos, say they plan to carry out the first operation in an unidentified Mediterranean country, starting in October.

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This winter scientists cloned a gaur, the first endangered species to be cloned, only to see the offspring die days after its birth  

Zavos told the symposium on Friday that he had been flooded by e-mail from couples seeking to have children through cloning.

"Dolly is here and we are next," he said.

Last year, Britain proposed allowing human cells to be cloned for research purposes while other European countries, including Spain and France have banned human cloning altogether.

Antinori first attracted controversy when he helped a 62-year-old woman have a baby eight years ago by implanting an egg in her womb.

In the cloning experiment, cells from an infertile father would be injected into an egg, which is then implanted in the mother's uterus for the pregnancy.

The resulting child would have the same physical characteristics as his father and infertile parents would not have to rely on sperm donors.

The chairman of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, Ruth Deech, said: "There are lines you should not cross.

"You have to consider humanity as a whole and say there are limits beyond which we should not go for the sake of future generations and for respect for the autonomy and dignity of present generations."

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Scientists await birth of first cloned endangered species
January 5, 2001
Archbishop condemns embryo research
December 20, 2000
Vatican leads chorus objecting to human cloning
August 18, 2000
British government action on cloning stirs international debate
August 17, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Pro-Life resource list
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

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