by David Prentice
April 22, 2009
He’s ba-ack! Fertility doctor Panayiotis Zavos now claims he created 14 cloned human embryos and transferred 11 of them into 4 women’s wombs, in hopes of a born clone. The claim was accompanied by a video, from an independent film maker, of Zavos supposedly doing cloning in the lab. While no clone pregnancies resulted, Zavos stated “the cloned child is coming.” Dr Zavos also said he has produced cloned embryos of three dead people, including a 10-year-old child called Cady, who died in a car crash. He said he did this in response to grieving relatives who wanted clones of their loved ones. In those cases, Zavos says he fused the human cells with cow eggs rather than human eggs, to create a human-animal hybrid “model” allowing him to study the cloning procedure. He noted “It’s a model for us to learn. First you develop a model and then you go on to the target. We did not want to experiment on human embryos, which is why we developed the hybrid model.”
Given the history of human cloning claims, we should be hearing more news soon. The tinfoil hat crowd includes the Raelians (who believe that the human race was cloned from aliens) and their claim that they cloned several children back in 2002, and fertility doctor Severino Antinori, who has also claimed success in creating born clones, most recently in March 2009.
There is no evidence to believe Antinori or the Raelians. But Zavos does warrant watching. Zavos is determined to succeed and supposedly has a long line of people eager to sign up for his cloning program, at a cost of between $45,000 and $75,000. Zavos first published a paper claiming an 8-10-cell cloned human embryo back in 2003, in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online. Since then he has been collaborating with Karl Illmensee, who has a long track record in cloning experiments dating back to pioneering studies in the early 1980s with mice. Illmensee also pioneered in the 1970s what has become the gold standard test for pluripotent stem cells—injecting a cell into an early embryo and following its development into various tissues in the born organism.
In 2006 Zavos and Illmensee published the claim of another cloned human embryo, which after reaching the 4-cell stage was transferred to a woman’s womb, though no pregnancy resulted. They also published a paper in Fertility and Sterility in 2006 claiming production of cloned cow-human hybrid embryos. And in 2007 Illmensee published a review article promoting human cloning. In that paper he quotes a 2001 survey indicating that “More than three-quarters of ART practitioners responding indicated that they would be willing to provide human reproductive cloning.”
A Brief History of Human Cloning
Beyond the claims made above, including published papers, there have been others who published claims of creating cloned human embryos.
In 2001 Advanced Cell Technology claimed that they had created cloned human embryos, that survived only to a few-cell stage.
In 2003 a Chinese group claimed success at producing cloned rabbit-human hybrid embryos.
In 2005 the British team of Stojkovic & Murdoch claimed getting one cloned human embryo (and no cells).
In December 2008, a Chinese group claimed production of human cloned embryos (but no cells obtained from the embryos.)
In a March 2009 paper another Chinese group claimed production of several cloned human embryos. Despite their claim in the first sentence of their abstract, they went on to explain in the paper that they did not obtain any embryonic stem cells from the cloned embryos (maybe there was a problem in translation?)
ACT again claimed in 2009 that they had produced both cloned human embryos and cloned animal-human hybrid embryos (no cells were obtained from the embryos.)
Stanford’s Irving Weissman may be jealous of Zavos. Weissman frothed and sputtered after Friday’s announcement of the draft NIH Guidelines on embryonic stem cell funding. Likewise William Neaves of the Stowers Institute in Kansas City is also no doubt jealous. The Stowers spent $30 million in Missouri in 2006 to pass a state constitutional amendment (Amendment 2) allowing human cloning.
Zavos, Weissman, Antinori, Neaves, and the Raelians all want cloned human embryos for their own purposes.
Isn’t about time to say “no clones”?