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US heads for human cloning ban
It would ban the use of embryo clones for research
BBC Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 10:33 GMT 11:33
The United States House of Representatives has voted to ban all human cloning.
The legislation, supported by President George W Bush, passed by a 265-162 vote.
The House then went on to reject an amendment to the bill, which would have permitted human cloning for stem cell research, while outlawing it to produce children, by 249-178.
The amendment, proposed by Representatives Jim Greenwood, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Peter Deutsch, a Democrat from Florida, was backed by medical groups and the biotechnology industry.
The bill is not yet law, as it first has to be passed by the Democratic-led Senate.
Voices for and against
"This House should not be giving the green light to mad scientists to tinker with the gift of life," said Republican Representative J C Watts of Oklahoma before the vote.
Some congressmen, however, argued that cloning for medical research was both morally acceptable and scientific good sense.
Mr Greenwood and Mr Deutsch said permitting cloning for research could lead to cures for terrible diseases.
"Why would we condemn the world and future generations not to have this miracle?" Mr Greenwood said.
Currently most stem cells for research are obtained from spare embryos produced at fertility clinics, but President Bush is weighing whether to allow federal funding for such research.
Embryos left over from in-vitro fertilisation are not clones and are not be affected by the new legislation. The legislation would threaten violators with 10-year prison terms and million-dollar fines.
Despite the vote, Mr Greenwood is confident that the ban will not be approved in the Senate. He told the BBC's World Today: "The Senate has actually had this vote in the past and voted the other way - to keep therapeutic cloning legal."
He also believes that a heavy workload will postpone the vote for at least two more years. "The issue may die for the remainder of this Congress," he said.
Nevertheless, it is a setback for the scientific community, and a victory for President Bush, whose administration has supported a total ban on cloning.
"The president is pleased that it passed," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. "It has the proper measure of ethics, science and respect for a culture that places value on life."
A White House statement issued on Monday said the administration approved of the development of cell- and tissue-based therapies based on research involving the use of nuclear transfer or other cloning techniques to produce molecules, DNA and cells - other than human embryos, tissues, organs, plants or animals.
Italian Doctor Says Cloning Must
Excite Updated: Mon, Aug 06 6:33 PM EDT
By Jane Barrett
ROME (Reuters) - A controversial Italian doctor who is determined to be the first to clone a human being said on Monday his "therapeutic cloning" was a scientific development that could not and should not be stopped.
"You can't put up the barriers on therapeutic cloning," said Severino Antinori, who earlier this year said up to 700 couples had volunteered to be part of his human cloning experiment.
"Cloning will help us put an end to so many diseases, give infertile men the chance to have children. We can't miss this opportunity," he told Reuters.
Antinori said he would address a meeting on the issue at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington Tuesday and would speak out against a sweeping ban on human cloning approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
The ban on making babies cloned from adults or creating embryos for medical research has already come under fire from U.S. scientists who say the threat of imprisonment and fines could force them to move abroad.
Antinori's colleague in the cloning effort, U.S. fertility specialist Panos Zavos, told CNN, "We hope that in November we will begin" the process of creating cloned embryos. The next step is implanting an embryo into a woman's uterus to start a pregnancy.
But while American scientists argue they should be allowed to clone embryos for scientific research, Antinori also wants to grow embryos into full-term babies.
The goal of therapeutic cloning is to reprogram an adult's own cells to create new ones that can replace those that are diseased or cannot regenerate themselves.
HUMAN CLONING BANNED
Human reproductive cloning, which could theoretically be used to create a new person, is prohibited in many countries and while Italy's new center-right government has not made any mention of cloning since winning a general election in May, it is also likely to support such a ban.
Italy's medical council, a professional regulatory organization that can discipline its members or even expel them, supports human experimentation only to prevent or cure pathological diseases.
The council began a disciplinary procedure against Antinori last March when he first announced his plans. The group's president for the Rome area, Maro Falconi, said Antinori risked losing his permit to practice medicine in Italy.
On Monday the council urged parliament to pass legislation on human cloning and set sanctions.
Antinori said he may be forced to work on a boat in international waters, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported.
Antinori's plan has been fiercely criticized by politicians, ethical groups and scientists alike.
The head of Italy's medical council, Giuseppe Del Barone, told a radio news program that creating cloned babies was "a rape of nature...which goes against human dignity."
One of the strongest arguments against the project is that a cloning method used to create Dolly the sheep in 1997 carries a very high risk of miscarriage and deformity.
"You cannot underestimate the risks of (such) research, which strains the boundaries and has already sown doubt and concern in the scientific world," Del Barone said.
Earlier this year, scientists who created Dolly warned there was evidence that any human clone who made it to birth could have developmental and genetic defects.
Ethical and religious groups argue Antinori's team and other cloning researchers were trying to play God.
Antinori, who first came to prominence by helping a 62-year-old woman have a child in 1994, disagrees.
"We have the techniques we need. We will never allow a deformed child to be born," he said.
"(In Washington) tomorrow, I will say that cloning is not a religious question," Antinori said, adding that President Bush was only against cloning because "he listens to the pope."
Zavos said the scientists would use the appearance in Washington to "set the record straight" about their intentions.
"We feel like if we educate the people that we are real people attempting to assist other childless couples to have a ... biological child of their own, everybody understands that," Zavos said.
When Bush met Pope John Paul last month, the pontiff warned him against the "evil" of stem-cell research on embryos, which die in the process.
Last week, Bush said that human cloning presented profound moral issues and that he welcomed the congressional ban as "a strong ethical statement."
Dr. Severino Antinori, director, International Associated Research Institute, left, and Panayiotis Zavos, director of the Andrology Institute in Lexington, Ky., take part in a conference on cloning at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2001. Amid growing controversy over the safety of human cloning, scientists argued Tuesday for trying to make genetic duplicates of people by adapting the techniques used to create the sheep Dolly. Photo by Joe Marquette (AP)
Scientists Determined to Clone
Excite Updated: Tue, Aug 07 5:58 PM EDT
By PAUL RECER, AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - With angry words and apparent determination, three researchers told a meeting of scientists Tuesday they are unswayed by stories of medical risk or by ethical objections and will soon try to clone human beings.
"I believe we have enough information to proceed with human cloning," Brigitte Boisselier told a committee of the National Academy of Sciences. "I don't believe working with animal cloning will give us much more information. I think we have enough."
Boisselier, the director of Clonaid, a human cloning company, hinted that such experiments were already under way. When asked for details, she only smiled and said: "I am doing it and hope I can publish that soon and share it with you."
Panayiotis Michael Zavos, director of the Andrology Institute in Lexington, Ky., and Dr. Severino Antinori of the University of Rome, said they were proceeding with human cloning research as a means of allowing infertile men to have children. However, they said they had not yet attempted to clone a human being.
The comments came during a hearing amid angry exchanges from people on both sides of the issue. Opponents met in the stately lobby of the National Academy's building, and under the glare of television lights shouted at each other. One side contended cloning was a human reproductive right; the other said it would be an unethical, perhaps dangerous form of human experimentation.
Earlier, animal cloning researchers said there has been a high level of failure in experiments, with many animals dying before birth and others born with abnormalities.
Asked if these problems might be corrected in human cloning experiments, Alan Colman, director of PPL Therapeutics, made clear his opposition to such research.
"Practice makes perfect, but it is unethical to practice on humans," said Colman, whose Scottish lab cloned Dolly, the famous sheep. He said that attempting human cloning would result in miscarriages, deaths and abnormal births. "I don't see that it is ethical to take on that practice, now or forever."
Zavos got into a shouting match when Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute in Boston asked if he and other cloning researchers were able to test human embryos for abnormalities.
As Jaenisch elaborated on his question, Zavos snapped, "I am not going to let him lecture me."
The National Academy's panel was hearing testimony from the researchers to gather information for a report. The academy is a private organization of scientists and engineers. It is chartered by Congress and frequently does research at the request of government agencies.
Zavos and Antinori told the panel that they wanted to clone humans because some 70 million males in the world are physically unable to produce children in any other way.
"We want to make this available only to people who have exhausted all other possibilities for reproduction," said Zavos.
But Boisselier said she believed cloning was a human right.
"It is a fundamental right to reproduce in any way you want," she said. "If you want to mix genes with others, then that's your choice. But if you want to reproduce only with your genes, then it is your right."
In cloning, genes from an adult cell are implanted into a human egg from which all the genetic material has been removed. The egg is then cultured into an embryo and implanted in the womb of the mother. The offspring would have only the genes from the adult cell. The result would be a genetic duplicate of the cell donor.
Cloning is opposed by most of the world's scientists, governments and religions. A bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives that would outlaw human cloning and penalize offenders with prison and heavy fines. No votes have been taken on a companion bill in the Senate.
Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, was created in Scotland in 1997. Since then, whole herds of cattle, sheep, pigs and other animals have been cloned.
Researchers said Tuesday that, despite this experience, the success rate of cloning is still very low, only about 3 percent in some labs. Experts told the panel that fundamental flaws appear in cloned animals. Many die in the womb. Even those successfully born often have abnormalities such as obesity, congenital defects, altered muscle structure and changed metabolism.
"We expect half of our cloned animals to die," said Jonathan Hill, a researcher at Cornell University. Many starve in the womb, he said, because of placental failures.
Ryuzo Yanagimachi of the University of Hawaii said that even cloned mice that appear to be normal in his laboratory suffer from faulty gene expression.
He said the defects may not even manifest themselves in the short life of a mouse, but they could become serious and life threatening in humans that live for many decades.
excite news 8th aug 2001
Cloning humans 'easier' than animals
BBC Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 19:30 GMT 20:30 UK
Cloning humans might be easier than first thought By the BBC's Julian Siddle
A group of scientists carrying out research into human genetics say cloning humans may actually be easier than cloning animals.
The news follows a recent announcement from an Italian fertility doctor that he intends to begin cloning humans to help infertile couples have children.
Many scientists reacted with horror when Dr Severino Antinori announced his intention to clone humans.
Those involved in animal cloning warned of huge practical problems - many clones die early or are born with genetic deformities, and develop diseases such as cancer.
In this latest research, scientists at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina say the cause of all these problems may be one specific gene, which is responsible for controlling the way in which cells grow.
When it is not working properly, cells can grow in an uncontrolled way. This can cause cancer tumours to develop.
In normal sexual reproduction a copy of this gene is passed from each parent to the offspring. But in many animals other than humans, one of these genes is turned off.
The cloning process affects the remaining active gene; it cannot work properly, and so the cloned embryo grows in an uncontrolled way.
For example, in sheep less than one embryo in 300 develops normally. Even the world's most famous sheep clone, Dolly, is suffering from problems linked to this gene - she is rapidly ageing and overweight.
The researchers found this genetic difference while looking at the evolution of genes. They say this difference arose about 70 million years ago to help control the size of babies in the wombs of very early human ancestors.
The researchers also say finding that the gene works in a different way in humans from animals such as rats and mice has raised questions about large areas of medical research.
They say many drugs rejected because they cause cancer in these animals could be looked at again.
Their findings are being published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.
Surrogate fights to stop twins saleBBC Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Helen Beasley made contact with the couple via the internet The British woman asked to be a surrogate mother by Californian lawyers says she will sue to stop the prospective parents making money from the twins.
Charles Wheeler, 50, and Martha Berman, 47, of San Francisco, asked Helen Beasley, 26, to terminate her pregnancy after discovering she was carrying twins but she refused.
On Monday the couple said another set of would-be parents had been found for the twins.
But Ms Beasley, from Shrewsbury, claims they are demanding at least $65,000 (£45,500) to transfer their parental rights - she says this is immoral and disgusting.
On Wednesday she will begin suing them for allegedly backing out of the $20,000 (£14,000) surrogacy deal.
Ms Beasley, who is living at a secret location in San Diego until she gives birth, will also ask the court to grant her parental rights.
Her lawyer, Theresa Erickson, told BBC News that the couple should be "held accountable to Helen for what they have done to her".
Ms Erickson added: "We are hoping that the court takes away any rights that these parents may have and that Helen then has the opportunity to choose parents on her own."
Ms Beasley told BBC Breakfast News: "The parents do not want them so they should not gain financially from them.
"I do not think anyone should gain financially from having their babies adopted."
"When these babies go to parents it will be for free."
She said that "at the beginning, I knew who the parents were and that the babies were going to go to them and I was quite happy with that.
"But because of the way things have gone - money has been brought into it and it has all turned very ugly - I have grown attached to the babies and want to do the best I can for them."
Ms Beasley reaffirmed that "I still strongly believe in surrogacy.
"I still believe it is a beautiful thing.
"When it works out how it should, it achieves such a lot for everybody involved."
Ms Beasley, now about five and a half months pregnant, made contact with the US couple via the internet.
The Shropshire secretary was made pregnant in California using Mr Wheeler's sperm and eggs from a donor selected by the couple.
Ms Beasley, who already has a nine-year-old son, said she had agreed to abort additional foetuses if more than one egg was fertilised.
But she said a verbal agreement was made that such a decision had to be made before the 12th week of her pregnancy.
When the couple scheduled a hospital appointment for the abortion in her 13th week, she objected on health grounds.
She told BBC News: "Since I was 14 weeks pregnant they have stopped all contact.
"As a surrogate, I am supposed to get living expenses, lost wages, maternity clothes allowance - things like that.
"But I have not received a penny from this couple."