by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
September 1, 2004
London, England (LifeNews.com) — An American fertility specialist announced at a London press conference Tuesday that he had successfully cloned DNA taken from deceased human subjects.
Panos Zavos admitted to receiving payment from the families of a dead baby and an 11-year old girl, which he used in experiments that resulted in what Zavos claims became viable embryos when implanted into cow egg cells.
Although he claimed in January to have implanted a cloned embryo into a woman, Zavos said he destroyed the cow-human hybrids once the cells began to divide and multiply rapidly, and did not intend to implant them.
Zavos claims that his experiments are a big step toward success in reproductive cloning, although British scientists condemned the efforts.
The human cells were given to Zavos from families who lost their loved ones. One set was of an 18-month old boy who died after surgery, another from an 11-year-old girl killed in an automobile accident, and a 33-year-old who was also believed to have died in an accident.
According to Zavos, the boy’s DNA failed to develop, although the other two cow-human hybrids were successfully created, then destroyed.
The families contacted Zavos at the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky, and paid him for his research. Zavos has denied allegations that he exploited the vulnerable families.
"It is grossly misleading to suggest that you can replicate a loved one, such as a child lost in a road accident, by producing a cloned person with the same genetic material," said Professor Richard Gardner, the chairman of the Royal Society Working Group on Stem Cell Research and Cloning.
"The scientific community, and society as a whole, should be concerned about this because current evidence shows reproductive cloning is medically unsafe, scientifically unsound and socially unacceptable," added Gardner. "Using the media to make claims that are unsubstantiated by credible scientific and medical authorities simply leads to unnecessary public anxiety."
Similar concerns about embryonic stem cell research, also called "therapeutic cloning" to distinguish it from reproductive cloning efforts of scientists like Zavos, have been expressed by pro-life leaders.
In June, Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family told reporters at the National Press Club that their was no scientific evidence of embryonic stem cell research providing medical benefits, and to report otherwise was a betrayal of the public trust.
"Are you aware that not one human being anywhere in the world is being treated with embryonic stem cells?" asked Dobson. "There is not a single clinical trial going on anywhere in the world, because (embryonic) stem cells in laboratory animals create tumors. Nobody will use them.
"To ignore the scientific realities, to fail to report that embryonic stem-cell research is the less promising course of action, to allow people who are suffering to develop false hope about possible treatment breakthroughs, is an unconscionable betrayal of the public trust," admonished Dobson.