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First steps in cloning from dead
Updated: 2004-08-31 11:11

A fertility expert is set to provoke international uproar this week by claiming he has taken the first step towards cloning a dead human being.

American scientist Dr Panos Zavos [file photo]
In what many will regard as a grotesque experiment, maverick American scientist Dr Panos Zavos will announce that he has taken DNA from two corpses and used it to create embryonic clones of the dead people.

Zavos says he has taken DNA from an 11-year-old girl called Cady and a 33-year-old man, both of whom died in road accidents, and implanted it into living eggs that subsequently divided in the laboratory to form embryos.

But an attempt to make a third clone, using DNA taken from a dummy and nasal extractor belonging to a baby who died, has so far failed to provide results.

The controversial experiment is certain to provoke a furious backlash from critics, who will accuse Zavos, from Lexington, Kentucky, of using gruesome Frankenstein science and of playing God.

It will also lead to accusations that he is exploiting vulnerable people by raising false hopes that they can bring their dead loved ones back.

Earlier this year Dr Zavos claimed to have implanted a cloned human embryo in a woman's womb. The announcement was greeted with derision by mainstream scientists and fertility experts, who called his work odious.

He later revealed the attempt had been unsuccessful.

The doctor will announce details of his macabre new research in London tomorrow, but Britain's The Mail on Sunday was given a preview of a film in which he claims to be helping three families to create genetic replicas of loved ones who have died.

In the film by award-winning British documentary maker Peter Williams, who recorded the creation of the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978, Zavos claims to have implanted DNA taken from the corpses into living cow eggs.

These are bigger than a human egg and therefore easier to manipulate. The cells started to divide to create embryos but were not allowed to go beyond 64 cells.

Zavos says he would never consider putting the resulting hybrid embryos into a human womb, nor could they survive anyway.

But he claims the same technique could be used to implant DNA from a corpse into a human egg, creating an embryo that, if implanted into a womb, could develop into a true clone of the dead person.

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