The Cloning Race

Japanese automaker Toyota displays a cut away showing the interior of their Hybrid vehicle Prius during the Shanghai Auto 2007 held in Shanghai, China, Saturday, April 21, 2007. Alternative vehicles are a theme of the Shanghai Auto Show 2007, which opens Sunday. Automakers including up-and-coming Chinese competitors plan to show fuel cell and gasoline-electric hybrid models. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) AP

It's not romantic.

Or maybe it is, depending on your point of view.

Some couples who've tried just about everything in the struggle to have a baby are closely following the race to produce the first human clone, despite the raging ethical and biological debate over the wisdom of ever crossing that scientific frontier.

Scientists have been talking about experiments to produce human clones at least as far back as 1938, with the first laboratory successes in tinkering with DNA and human embryos reported some seven years ago.

But so far no human embryo created through cloning has made it to the point of being born.

CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports that as scientists around the globe compete to be the first to produce a human clone, there are divergent opinions on just what cloning would mean for the human race.

"This technology will be developed for therapeutic purposes," says fertility specialist Panos Zavos, who together with his Italian colleague Dr. Severino Antinori shocked the world recently with their plans to clone a human being within two years. "We're not going to clone the Michael Jordans of this world."

Zavos says he and his colleagues believe that cloning will eventually be just another way to help infertile couples to have children. Most scientists agree cloning will not make Xerox copies of people, or re-create dead people.

He says those would-be parents are not trying to make duplicate copies of themselves, they just want to have children.

"Whether it's the same souls, the same fingerprints, the same looks, the same hair length…the same color of their hair, the same eye color, the same this, the same that - trust me, they don't care," says Zavos, in an interview with CBS News.

Princeton University microbiologist Lee Silver agrees with Zavos.

"I predict that, in 20 years when all this fuss has died down and we understand what cloning can do and what it can't do, it will be just one more reproductive technique, like in vitro fertilization, to help infertile people have babies," says Silver.

He worries, however, about just who is involved in cloning research, explaining that fears about whether cloning is safe and ethical have persuaded many mainstream scientists to stay on the sidelines.

"Mainstream in vitro fertilization specialists won't touch it (cloning) and therefore it's being left to fringe groups," says Silver. "Unfortunately, I think fringe groups may succeed first."

One such out-of-the-mainstream individual is a man known only as Rael, the leader of a group that believes aliens from outer space used the cloning process to create the very first humans on earth.

Rael, who says he himself was cloned on another planet, is providing financial backing to a respected scientist: Brigitte Boisselier of Hamilton College in Clinton, in central New York State.

Human testing is already underway at a private lab n the U.S., according to Boisselier.

"The earliest we could have this child would be Christmas this year," says Boisselier.

That concerns Silver and other mainstream scientists.

They say if Rael's team is the first with a human clone, it will cast a dark cloud over what could be valuable technology before science and society have time to get used to what many still consider an alien idea.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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