The Raelian group claims to have produced two human clones (with more on the way), but refuses to let scientists see the babies. This could be because they have some of the genetic defects commonly found in animal clones. Clones and in-vitro (test tube) fertilized babies can suffer from Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, which is a rare condition that causes too much growth, kidney abnormalities and an increased chance of tumors.
The syndrome is the result of errors in imprinting, which happens when the DNA from the mother and father are combined when the embryo is first conceived. Imprinting makes sure that the genes from both parents are correctly mixed so that the fetus develops correctly in the womb. When a single sperm is injected into an egg, it may disrupt this process.
When researchers in the U.K. studied 149 babies diagnosed with the syndrome, they found that 6 of them (or 4%) were test tube babies. The normal proportion of babies with the defect is only 1%, so in-vitro babies are more likely to have it than those conceived normally.
In animal cloning, many fetuses spontaneously miscarry at various stages of pregnancy, and scientists don?t know why, although miscarriage is often a safety mechanism when a fetus is not developing correctly. Dr. Wolf Reik says, “Evidence is emerging that imprinting is also faulty in cloned animals, so it’s not unreasonable to think that human cloning would put children at risk of this condition and others like it.”
It’s probably too early to tell if the Raelian clones have this defect, but the group may want to wait to make sure they’re healthy before it shows them off to the world.
In situations like this, it?s good to know that we?re finally finding an Answer to The Unanswered Question.
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