Human cloning: Are we there yet?
“I can clone a human being”, declared fertility expert Dr. Panayiotis Zavos to the UK newspaper The Independent. He is not the first one to make such claims. The Italian Dr Severino Antinori has repeatedly claimed to have done it.
As usual, the scientific community is skeptical. However, this time the claims seem to be more credible. First, Zavos reportedly has documentations to prove it. Second, he was honest enough to admit that although he had implanted several cloned human embryos in women’s wombs, none of those attempts have so far resulted in a viable pregnancy. However, he is very confident that this is just the beginning, that the procedure will become successful in just a few years’ time. Zavos is the man behind the Zavos Organization and Zavos Diagnostic Laboratories. The Cypriot-born naturalized American has extensive experience in reproduction biology and assisted reproduction.
Whether Zavos’ claims are true or not, they definitely have rekindled the ethical debate over cloning, which is illegal in most Western countries. To circumvent the legal issues, Zavos reportedly set up his laboratory in an undisclosed country in the Middle East.
One of the most controversial aspects of Zavos’ work is the attempt to clone Cady, a 10-year old girl who died in a car crash. Her blood cells were reportedly frozen and sent to Zavos. If the cloning technique is really feasible, her mom would definitely be more than willing to have her little girl reborn again.
This is not the first time that human embryos have been cloned. The technique is routinely done in the lab to extract stem cells for medical research. Last year, the UK has even allowed the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for research purposes. What is illegal is the implantation of these embryos in the womb of human females.
According to a commentary in The Independent, the cloning procedure “can’t be ethical until it is proven safe.” The case of sheep Dolly the first cloned mammal indicated that cloning has some adverse effects on the offspring. Dolly suffered from health problems which shortened her lifespan to half the normal. The effect on the well-being of the mother is not known as well.
There are others who would claim that this goes beyond safety and ethics. There are moral and religious implications to be considered as well.
A documentary on Human Cloning and Zavos’ work will be featured on Discovery Channel.