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Advances In Human Cloning

During the week of May 14, The Early Show looked at how far science has come in our efforts to produce a perfect baby.

Tuesday, Dr. Emily Senay had an update on efforts to clone a human being.

Wednesday, she talked to Michael West of Advanced Cell Technology. His work involves cloning human embryos to study the stem cells they contain - special cells that could someday be used to cure a variety of human ailments.

Thursday, bioethicist Gregory Stock discussed the possibilities and probabilities of "germline engineering", which is the "manipulation of the genetics of egg or sperm (our 'germinal' cells) to modify future generations."

Friday, Dr. Emiy Senay reported that doctors who treat parents for infertility using in vitro fertilization can screen the embryos that are created to check for the genetic causes of a variety of devastating diseases and implant only those embryos that are disease-free. It's a process called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

Human cloning is no longer the stuff of science fiction. There are doctors who say they plan to make a human clone scientific fact. Infertile couples say that would be an answer to their prayers.

While human cloning is at the center of an ongoing debate in Washington, some couples say that if it is banned in the U.S., they would travel to another country to have it done. While the ethical and moral debate goes on, most experts agree the science is far ahead of the law.

The scientific community, for the most part, agrees that it's too early to tell whether human cloning could produce a healthy child, and that a lot more study is needed to look at safety issues and potential problems that might develop with a child.

With animal cloning, there have been questions about premature aging and medical problems.

The strongest argument for cloning is for use as a source of stem cells, which hold the promise of treating a variety of diseases someday. As our series continues, we'll take a look at the possibilities and realities of cloning from the people on the cutting edge of the technology.

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