Group claims first cloned human born

Founded by Raelians, who say aliens engineered us

CNN News/December 27, 2002
By Miriam Falco

Hollywood, Florida -- A group thought to be trying to clone a human announced on Friday the birth of a cloned baby girl named Eve.

The group said the child was born Thursday in an unnamed country.

If true, the birth would be the first ever human clone. Brigitte Boisselier, scientific director of Clonaid, made the announcement at a news conference and has arranged for a physicist named Michael Guillen, science correspondent for ABC News to independently verify the claim.

Boisselier offered no immediate proof of her claim -- or photographs of the baby. She said the baby is healthy, and that the whole family is "very happy." She also said the baby's grandmother thinks she looks just like her mother.

She says the baby will go home in three days, and an independent expert will take DNA samples from the baby to prove she had been cloned. Those results are expected within a week after the testing.

Clonaid was founded by a religious movement called the Raelians, the doctrine of which asserts that life on Earth was created by extraterrestrials.

Boisselier had told a congressional committee last year that she believed she had the knowledge to produce a human clone in the near future.

Clonaid, which calls itself the "first human cloning company," was founded in 1997. Boisselier is a bishop in the Raelian movement."

Claude Vorilhon, who founded the Raelians, told CNN in July 2001 that the long-term goal for human cloning is to live forever. Vorilhon says cloning a baby is only the first step: Eventually the group wants to learn how to clone an adult, then "transfer the brain to the clone."

Boisselier says the immediate purpose for cloning is to help infertile couples. Last November, she told CNN she was "indeed doing human cloned embryos and we have many cell divisions," but she wouldn't confirm any pregnancies.

No data released

To make a clone, scientists first take an egg and remove all of its genetic material. Then the nucleus of a cell -- any cell in the body -- is taken from the individual to be cloned and inserted into the hollowed-out egg.

The cell is then given a jolt of electricity or put in a chemical bath to activate cell division -- essentially tricking the cell into doing what a fertilized egg would normally do. Then the embryo is implanted into a woman's uterus to be carried to term.

It is unknown which exact procedure -- if any -- Clonaid used, because it has not published or released any data about its research.

Boisselier has not revealed the location of her current lab, only to say it is no longer in the United States. She used to have a lab in West Virginia, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration visited the lab and shut it down.

Scientists so far have successfully cloned sheep, cows, goats, mice, pigs and a rare wild ox. But human cloning is controversial, because the experience with animal cloning has shown a lot of potential for things to go wrong.

'One shouldn't do this'

Many animal cloners -- including Ian Wilmut, the Scottish researcher who successfully cloned the first animal, Dolly the sheep, in 1997 -- disapprove of human cloning. Wilmut has said it took 276 failed attempts before Dolly was successfully cloned.

"It is not responsible at this stage to even consider the cloning of humans, " said Rudolf Jaenisch, a biologist at MIT's Whitehead Institute for Biological Research, which clones mice.

Janeisch said that even if a human clone appears healthy, it may not be once it gets older. Cloning a human at this point, he said, without knowing more about why things go wrong, is "essentially using humans as guinea pigs, and one shouldn't do this."

According to Dr. Jon Hill, a veterinarian who successfully cloned cows at Texas A&M University, even clones who appear normal at birth often develop problems afterward.

"Their livers, their lungs, their heart, their blood vessels are often abnormal after birth," Hill said.

Few legal prohibitions

The Raelians are not the only group claiming to actively try to clone a human.

Italian doctor Severino Antinori made several announcements in recent months, claiming that a woman was carrying a human clone that would be born in January 2003. And former University of Kentucky professor Panos Zavos has also announced plans to clone a human, but he told CNN earlier this year he had not successfully created an embryo yet.

Scientists and bioethicists have questioned whether any of these groups have the ability to clone a human. Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, has said in the past that "we don't know how" to accomplish human cloning.

Legally, there's very little to stop scientists from cloning. In January, the National Academy of Sciences recommended a ban on human cloning, but only four states -- California, Michigan, Louisiana and Rhode Island -- ban any type of cloning research.

The FDA claims it has jurisdiction over human cloning based on the Public Health Service and Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. It says it would regulate the cloning process like a drug.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.