- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

The first of five women impregnated with cloned embryos is due to give birth to a baby girl by year's end, a member of the Raelian movement said yesterday.
"We have five pregnancies under way, of which one is almost due. We will have the first [baby] soon," French scientist Brigitte Boisselier, managing director of the group's Las Vegas-based Clonaid project, told AFP.
Miss Bosselier declined to give an exact date of birth, but said the cloned baby was due sometime before the end of the year.
Two U.S. couples, two Asian couples and one European couple are involved in the project. One of the American couples is expecting the first birth, a baby girl, she said.
The Raelians, who claim 55,000 followers worldwide, believe that life on Earth was established by extraterrestrials who arrived in flying saucers 25,000 years ago, and that humans themselves were created by cloning.
The movement's founder, Rael the former French journalist Claude Vorilhon lives in Quebec. He describes himself as a prophet and claims that cloning will enable humanity to attain eternal life.
In Rome on Tuesday, Italian gynecologist Dr. Severino Antinori said the world's first cloned human being, a boy, would be born in January.
Dr. Antinori said the mother, in the 33rd week of pregnancy, and the fetus were doing well.
Cloning provides a genetic duplicate of another creature. The predominant method entails removing the nucleus, or core, from an egg and replacing it with DNA from a donor. This DNA "reprograms" the egg, transferring into it the entire genetic code of the donor.
The big problem, however, is to ensure that all the genes in this transferred code work properly, performing the dazzlingly complex process of making and repairing tissue.
Wide-ranging tests in lab animals, and the experience of cloned farm animals including Dolly the sheep, have found that even though all the genes are there many of them do not appear to switch on and off as they should.
Malfunctioning genes can cause an embryo to become malformed, prompting the body to expel it in a miscarriage.
Miss Boisselier said that her organization had brought together cells to obtain more than 300 human embryos ahead of implantation.
They had also performed some 3,500 experiments on the ova of cows and pigs before starting to experiment on human eggs.
Many biotechnologists are repelled by human cloning as immoral as well as risky, and many governments have raced to pass laws that ban reproductive cloning. Yet this has not prevented a race to become the first to clone a human.
U.S. fertility specialist Panos Zavos told Congress in May that five groups of scientists were racing to produce the first cloned human baby.
Mr. Zavos said he expected the world's first clone to be born sometime in 2003.


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