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Scientist hopes Clonaid won't hamper research

From Sean Callebs

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(CNN) -- One of the nation's leading cloning researchers believes science may be harmed because of Clonaid's unsubstantiated claims it successfully cloned human babies.

Aside from labeling it a farce, Dr. Steve Stice said he is concerned the claims could cause lawmakers to step up oversight of research, hindering possible medical advancements.

Stice works with a program at the University of Georgia that has cloned 30 cows.

"When people think of cloning, (they think) we are producing monsters," Stice said. "But people see them and they think, 'Wow, that looks like any other animal.'"

While cloning animals for research is legal in the United States, Stice says an overwhelming number of scientists support an international ban on human cloning.

Stice has only disdain for claims by Clonaid and the Raelians, the fringe group tied to Clonaid that believes aliens cloned human beings.

"My biggest concern is that there may be overreaching in some laws that come about," he said. "I am hopeful there will be an international ban on cloning humans, but there are many other uses, good uses of cloning technology."

Stem cell research is one area that is benefiting from cloning science. Proponents say it could one day help cure spinal cord injuries, like the one that paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve. And celebrity Michael J. Fox has testified to Congress that cloning may lead to new treatments or a cure for Parkinson's disease, which he has.

But opponents of stem cell research believe that human life begins at conception, therefore existing embryos available for research shouldn't be laboratory experiments.

Much of Stice's work at the University of Georgia involves animals that could provide food for humans. He says with a growing population --and a big demand for animal protein -- cloning could be the answer.

"We can make hams that are the right size for consumers," Stice said. "And (make food) they desire -- bacon with less fat and better taste; steaks that repeatedly make a nice juicy steak."

Some researchers are concerned that an unusually large number of cloned animals have had a predisposition to arthritis and ailments with the lungs and liver. In any event, most believe a lot of research remains to be done.

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