Scientists have once again been forced to respond to claims by controversial Italian fertility expert Severino Antinori that human reproductive cloning is already taking place. Following media reports last week that one of his own patients is expecting a cloned child, Antinori has now used an Italian chat show to claim that three other woman are pregnant with cloned babies.
Professor Johnjoe McFadden , Professor of molecular genetics at University of Surrey, said:
“I’ll believe it when I see it. He’s been talking about this for a very long time, but has produced very little evidence that we can actually evaluate.
“This forces us to address the issues of human reproductive cloning. One of the reasons it is banned at the moment is the very low success rate of cloning techniques. However, if a woman ever gave birth to a healthy, cloned child, we should be prepared with appropriate legislation that could regulate this as a potential fertility treatment.”
Dr Steven Minger , lecturer in bio-molecular sciences at King’s College, London, said:
“I don’t believe that human cloning is on the cards as a viable treatment in the immediate future, simply because it’s so inefficient. Animal studies have shown less than a 1% success rate – we simply don’t have enough human egg donors to pursue research like that. Until we can do this routinely in mice, and reliably produce cloned embryos, we shouldn’t tackle human work.”
Chronology Antinori’s chat-show revelation is just the latest in a long line of outlandish claims. The Science Media Centre has produced a summary that sheds some light on why many scientists are increasingly dismayed by Antinori’s activities: 1993 A British millionairess (59) gave birth to twins boys after fertility treatment by Dr Antinori, who said “The rich women from England.it’s a very good story” 1999 It was reported, to the undisguised scepticism of many fertility experts, that Antinori had found a way of had helping infertile men by taking sperm producing element out of human testes and implanting them in rat testes, so that the rats would produce viable human sperm. 1999 Antinori promises 14 women a Millennium “test tube baby”, claiming that he could deliver the baby to order at the required date and time by Caesarean section. The babies failed to materialise. April 21, 2002 Antinori revealed this month that one of the women in his human cloning programme was 8 weeks pregnant with a clone. However Professor Panos Zavos, who launched the fertility programme with Antinori last year, stated that as far as he knows, the claim is untrue. He has also voiced concerns about the doctor’s approach, and has cut research links with him.