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First cloned baby 'due in January'.

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Introduction

First cloned baby 'due in January' The world's first cloned baby is due to be born early in January 2003, claimed controversial Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori on Tuesday night. He said the pregnancy is "going well, there are no problems" at a press conference in Rome. Ultrasound scans reveal that the fetus weighs 2.5 to 2.7 kilogrammes and is "absolutely healthy", he added. Two other women carrying cloned fetuses are 27 and 28 weeks pregnant, Antinori said. But he refused to reveal the location of any of the women. He said he was not responsible for the work, but had acted as an advisor. Many scientists are sceptical of Antinori's announcements, accusing him of enjoying the publicity his claims bring. He has provided no evidence to back up his latest statement, or previous declarations that he has cloned pigs and primates. But he has carried out controversial fertility procedures in the past, creating a pregnancy in a 62-year-old woman in 1994. "Irresponsible and repugnant" In May, Antinori announced that three women were pregnant with clones, and suggested that one lived in an Islamic country. ...read more.

Middle

The idea of therapeutic cloning is to take adult cells from a person's body, create cloned embryos and extract embryonic stem cells that can turn into a wide range of tissues, all a perfect match for the patient. But recent research suggests that stem cells in adults are just as versatile as embryonic ones, which might make cloning unnecessary. Now New Scientist has uncovered a patent application that claims cloned stem cells have a big advantage over other stem cells. A team at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) in Massachusetts, working with Malcolm Moore of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, cloned skin cells from two cows. They then injected blood-forming stem cells (which also give rise to immune cells) from the cloned fetuses back into the cows. One cow had its immune systems suppressed with drugs. The cloned cells seemed to have an amazing ability to take over from adult ones, replacing up to 50 per cent of the cows' blood stem cells after just one infusion, even in the cow whose immune system was untouched. ...read more.

Conclusion

Blood stem cells are known to help repair other organs, though this ability wanes with age. "We could introduce cells with regenerative ability," says Lanza. The cloned cells may be more vigorous because nuclear transfer - the key step in cloning - restores the "fuses", or telomeres, on chromosomes, which burn down as cells divide. Of course, a greater ability to divide and regenerate also means a greater risk of the stem cells becoming cancerous. And there is some evidence that cloning can disrupt normal gene expression - some cloned animals are stillborn or have abnormalities. Another major issue is the fact that the blood stem cells injected into the cows came from 100-day-old fetuses, since that is when the cells can be found in the liver and can be easily harvested. There is no question of allowing human cloned embryos to grow to that stage to harvest stem cells, but Lanza says ACT and others are trying to derive blood stem cells directly from embryonic ones. Other experts are reserving judgement until the work is published. "It makes me sceptical because I can't understand from a patent application what they are doing," says another stem cell researcher, Dan Kaufman of the University of Minnesota. ...read more.

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