The world?s first cloned baby could be born in November, according to Italian fertility expert Severino Antinori. Most animal clones have short, unhealthy lives. But even if the baby is healthy, the mother could be at high risk for a rare invasive womb cancer.

Richard Gardner, who chaired the U.K. Royal Society?s working group on cloning, says the mother could be at risk from choriocarcinoma, an unusual form of cancer unique to humans. The cancer develops from the trophoblast, the part of an embryo that invades the womb wall and develops into the placenta. Though the causes are unknown, poorly regulated genes controlling the growth of the placenta seem to be involved.
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A woman is eight weeks pregnant with a clone, according to Severino Antinori, one of the fertility specialists who is supervising the pregnancy. ?One woman among thousands of infertile couples in the program is eight weeks pregnant,? Antinori says. This is the world?s first human cloning pregnancy.

Antinori’s colleague, Panos Zavos at the Andrology Institute of America in Lexington, Kentucky, previously announced that they planned to clone a baby by the end of 2001. They have refused to reveal the name or nationality of the woman, but say that almost 5000 couples are now involved in the program.
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Cloned animals may die young, according to the first study of their lifespans, carried out by Japanese researchers on mice.

Cloning involves removing the nucleus from an egg and replacing it with the nucleus of a donor cell. Many of the embryos created in this way never develop or miscarry, and even after birth some clones die. But up to now, cloning scientists have insisted that the few survivors can be perfectly normal.

But Atsuo Ogura of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo says his work suggests that some effects of cloning are not apparent in the days, weeks or even years after birth. ?It is very probable that, at least for some populations of clones, some unpredictable defects will appear in the long run,? he says.
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Doctors are developing artificial wombs in which embryos can grow outside a woman?s body. Scientists have created prototype wombs made out of cells extracted from women?s bodies. Embryos successfully attached themselves to the walls of these laboratory wombs and began to grow. Experiments had to be terminated after a few days to comply with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) regulations.

?We hope to create complete artificial wombs using these techniques in a few years,? says Dr. Hung-Ching Liu of Cornell University?s Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility. ?Women with damaged uteruses and wombs will be able to have babies for the first time.?
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