London, Dec. 29: The claim that a bizarre religious cult has succeeded in cloning the world’s first human baby has unleashed a tide of interest from infertile British couples desperate to create a child.
Yesterday, fertility experts remained sceptical about whether Clonaid, a company set up by the Raelian sect, has really managed the scientific feat of cloning a human being.
Nonetheless, Internet message boards filled up with anguished pleas from couples and individuals seeking to clone their dead children or to create a baby in their own image. Many exchanged messages and information on the website.
One of them, Fabian, 43, explained that her partner — who already has a daughter — did not understand her determination to bear her own child.
“He says I am the age to be a grandmother, not a mother,” she wrote. “He is not ready to battle to help me to the baby of my dreams. I would like to find another partner who is ready to back me up and consider cloning as an option.”
Another woman wrote: “I am a healthy 30-year-old mother of three beautiful children. I am married to a wonderful husband who is very supportive of my decisions. We are interested in receiving information on how we could possibly have a cloned child.”
Patrick Dixon, a global trends predictor from the London Business School who has written extensively about human cloning, said he had received three emails yesterday morning asking for help.
“The most bizarre was from a woman who was distraught after the death of her father and was proposing to use some of his tissue to have him as a baby,” said Dixon, who condemns human cloning.
“She said that he was such a wonderful human being that there must have been something special about his genetic code, and she intended to see that he went on in the world. Requests such as this are selfish ones from people who give no thought to the welfare of the new child they are going to create.”
On Friday, Clonaid’s director Brigitte Boisselier had announced in Miami that a 7 lb baby girl known as Eve had been born at an undisclosed location, to a 31-year-old American whose DNA she exactly shared.
Boisselier promised to provide evidence within a week that the DNA of the mother and her baby were identical.
Four more clone babies are due to be born soon, she added, including one to a lesbian couple and two created from the DNA of dead children.
Clonaid has created the first clones free of charge, it was claimed, but intends in future to charge about £140,000 for the process, using young female sect members as egg donors where necessary. The company already has five UK couples on its books.
Scientists have been sceptical of the claims. Harry Griffin, head of the Roslin Institute which cloned Dolly the sheep, said: “All the groups that work on cloning with animals have reported a high incidence of miscarriage and deaths soon after birth and problems with the clones later on in life.”
Some couples are also sceptical and would not consider cloning, including Raj and Shahana Hashmi, whose hopes of creating an IVF baby to act as a tissue donor for their sick son Zain have just been rejected by the High Court.
Shahana Hashmi said: “What we are seeking to do is not to go against nature but to do what nature intends us to do with just a little extra help. If Zain does die, then we would never wish him to be alive again. We do want another child, but it wouldn’t be Zain.”