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Why we fear a future of cloning.

Debates about cloning conjure up images of designer babies or a frightening future populated by people who are the exact replica of each other.

One of the most chilling depictions came from the 1976 book The Boys from Brazil by US author Ira Levin which was later turned into a movie.

The film's fictional premise was that the Nazis had perfected the art of cloning using experiments on Auschwitz prisoners and had created 94 genetic replicas of Hitler.

There are, indeed, major ethical and moral issues at the heart of the cloning debate. But no human has yet been cloned successfully - and attempts to do so are banned in this country.

Scientists in Korea claimed to have created the first cloned human embryo in 2004 but the work has since been discredited.

During New Year in 2003 a religious sect which believes mankind was created through cloning by aliens 25,000 years ago, claimed to have engineered the first human clones, but were later exposed as a fraud.

Cloning involves removing the DNA from the nucleus of an egg cell taken from a mother and replacing it with genetic material contained in a cell taken from whatever is being cloned.

An electric current acts as a trigger for the egg cell to start dividing as it grows like any normal embryo. Dolly the sheep was the first animal to have been successfully cloned in 1997.

Cloning, however, is expensive with a very low success rate. The vast majority of pregnancies involving clones have gone very badly and in many cases, the clone grows abnormally.

As procedures improve, however, the success rate is likely to get higher.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 7, 2008
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