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Clonaid: Baby 'clone' returns home

Brigitte Boisselier announced Friday that a cloned baby had been born.
Brigitte Boisselier announced Friday that a cloned baby had been born.

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CNN's Carol Lin talks with Rael -- founding member of a group that's funding human cloning efforts (December 30)
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CNN's Sanjay Gupta reports on the disbelief, alarm greeting cloning claim.
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Founded:  1973, France

Founder: Claude Vorilhon, who took the name Rael; his book is "The Final Message"

Basic tenet: The old Hebrew phrase "Elohim" -- usually translated as a name for God -- should have been interpreted as a reference to non-Earthlings "from the sky."  These entities are, Raelians say, responsible for the creation of life on Earth.

Membership: The organization says it comprises some 40,000 members worldwide, with highest concentrations in France, Canada and Japan. Outside researchers have suggested the membership may be smaller.

Source: The University of Virginia's New Religious Movements source

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A company founded by members of a sect that believes mankind was created by extraterrestrials says the alleged first human clone -- an infant girl -- returned home Monday and will undergo testing to verify its genetic makeup.

The girl, dubbed "Eve," went home Monday, said Clonaid spokeswoman Nadine Gary. An independent expert will take cell samples from the mother and girl this week and conduct tests to prove they are genetic duplicates, said Brigitte Boisselier, CEO of Clonaid. The company says its scientists produced the child.

Clonaid was founded by the Raelians, a religious sect that believes extraterrestrials created life on Earth through genetic engineering. Boisselier is a bishop in the movement, led by former French journalist Claude Vorilhon, who now calls himself "Rael."

Rael said Monday that the baby is "perfectly healthy," and defended the company against human cloning critics.

"I think opponents to cloning are more afraid of a healthy baby than of a handicapped child," he said. "They would be so happy the child will be handicapped, saying, 'Look, this is terrible, they are creating handicapped children.' Their most utmost fear is to have a healthy, smiling baby, because then the public opinion will change completely and everybody will say, 'That's beautiful.' " (Full story)

Citing privacy concerns, Boisselier would not say where home is for the 7-pound baby, which she said was born Thursday. She has already said the mother is a 31-year-old American citizen.

"I hope that I can disclose everything soon," Boisselier said.

The expert who will conduct the tests won't be identified until after they are conducted "so that he won't be followed to the place where the parents are living," Boisselier said.

The expert was selected by ABC's science correspondent Michael Guillen, who suggested the company allow someone on the outside to verify the process.

The parents must be the ones to decide whether others can then test the baby to confirm the results, Boisselier said.

'Medical malpractice'

The announcement has been met with fierce criticism, mainly because other cloned mammals have had serious birth defects or have developed health problems later.

"I think it is an act of medical malpractice to do human reproductive cloning when animal data shows how risky it is -- how high the frequency is of miscarriage, birth defects and even life problems with other species," University of Wisconsin bioethicist Alta Charo said. "We've been unsuccessful at doing this in our closest animal relatives."

Robert Lanza, a researcher with Advanced Cell Technologies, a private Massachusetts-based genetic research firm, said Clonaid has "absolutely no scientific track record."

"We are, of course, extremely concerned that if this did, in fact, happen, that there is going to be a tremendous public outcry, and we will be concerned with what the Congress does," Lanza said. "Obviously, we are concerned about there being a backlash against the medical applications of this technology, which have, of course, the potential to cure millions of patients."

Saturday, the Vatican condemned the development, saying it displays a "brutal mentality" lacking "ethical consideration." (Full story)

The White House has also criticized the alleged cloning. (Full story)

Boisselier said she is willing to turn over all her research and evidence of the cloning process to put to rest doubts about the procedure's success, but she complained that Clonaid is being singled out from all other private companies who are not required to hand over their notes. She said revealing such evidence might reveal the "trick" behind human cloning.

More reputed clonings planned

In January, she said, Clonaid is planning 20 more implantations of human clones. At that time, an independent expert may attend the process so he can see the sampling, the growing embryos, and the implantation.

"That's the least I can do, but I cannot spread all my notes," she said.

Eve was allegedly the first baby born of 10 implantations Clonaid did this year. Five of the implantations failed. The second cloned baby will be born next week, Boisselier said.

"So far, really, there are no indications of any problems, and I do believe that this [second baby] will be like Eve -- no problems," she said.

When asked about the imperfect results of animal cloning, Boisselier said Clonaid's procedure cannot be compared. The problems with animal cloning are a result of the specific procedures those scientists have used to reproduce the animals, and not the cloning process itself.

"We are serious people, responsible people, dealing with human beings," she said. "We are offering to some parents the right and the choice to have a child with their own genes."

And if, in the process of cloning, Clonaid's scientists should detect deformities or abnormalities in the child, the fetus will be aborted.

"But from what we've seen, there have been no such things," Boisselier said. "There have been early miscarriages like in IVF [in vitro fertilization], but no problems, no defects during the pregnancy."

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