First cloned baby -- report
ROME, Italy -- A maverick fertility specialist is reported to have claimed that a patient is pregnant with the world's first cloned baby.
Dr Severino Antinori, who has been developing a cloning programme at his clinic in Rome, Italy, made the announcement at a conference on genetic engineering in Abu Dhabi, according to a report in the Gulf News.
The newspaper said he made his comments while visiting Dubai for a conference on cloning and genetic engineering.
A spokeswoman at the International Centre for the Study of Physiopathy of Human Reproduction would neither confirm nor deny the claim.
The Gulf News quoted Antinori as saying: "Our project is at a very advanced stage.
"One woman among thousands of infertile couples in the programme is eight weeks pregnant.
"We have nearly 5,000 couples in this project now."
Contacted by telephone on Saturday, Antinori told Reuters "I am not talking to journalists."
Dr Ehab Kelada, clinical director at the London Fertility Centre, said Antinori must clarify the report immediately.
"The scientific community will be very alarmed," he told Reuters.
"If this report is true, it is shocking. We don't know how safe cloning is for humans
and it is dangerous to embark on this path without proper regulations or guidelines."
Rudolf Jaenisch, professor of biology and a leading cloning scientist based at the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: "It is totally outrageous and irresponsible to attempt cloning of humans when we know there is a very high probability of severe abnormalities, even if the baby survived to birth, which is extremely doubtful.
"In fact, death before birth would be the best outcome."
Antinori has previously pledged to attempt to clone a baby by the end of 2001.
Richard Nicholson, editor of the UK-based Bulletin of Medical Ethics, said he was sceptical of the claim, but said if it was true the baby's future was grim.
"I don't believe Dr Antinori has in any way considered the welfare of the offspring," Nicholson told the Press Association.
"I think he is trying to achieve personal notoriety. I don't believe he is truly trying to advance science for the benefit of mankind.
"With the sort of publicity-seeking Antinori goes in for, any resulting child clone is likely to become little more than a freak show.
"Given the accelerated ageing seen in cloned animals, this child is not going to have a particularly happy or normal childhood."
Professor Jack Scarisbrick, chairman of the UK's anti-abortion charity Life, which is strongly opposed to human cloning, said: "If this report is true it is outrageous. First of all, to be manipulating human life in this way is intolerable and all civilised countries have banned it or are banning it.
"Secondly, we know the risks of producing hideously deformed creatures and loss of life associated with cloning. It's quite irresponsible, but Antinori is a man from whom we expect this kind of behaviour."
In 1994, Antinori succeeded in helping a 62-year-old woman give birth to a boy.
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Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
Andrology Institute of America
Bulletin of Medical Ethics
Gulf News Online
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