Physicist Sets Out to Clone Humans

The cloning circus rolled into town again today with the news that a physicist plans to lead a drive to be the first to clone a human from an adult cell. Independent scientist G. Richard Seed has announced plans to open a clinic in Chicago, where he says a team of physicians plans within the next few months to attempt to use newly developed cloning techniques to enable an infertile couple to have a child. Seed, who received a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard in 1953, has declined to reveal the names of the physicians or of the three couples who have volunteered to try to follow the famous sheep Dolly into the history books.

Many scientists view human cloning as a tantalizing, if distant, prospect for helping infertile couples have children. It's possible "that some cloninglike technology will be the only therapy that will allow an infertile couple to have a genetically related child," says Sean Tipton, a spokesperson for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. But given the fact that nobody has been able to reproduce the Scottish team's result of cloning an animal from an adult cell, many experts are skeptical that the feat Seed has set out to do can even be done. And even if it were feasible, "the chance of abnormal offspring is high," says Roger Pedersen, a physician at the University of California, San Francisco, and major proponent of a voluntary moratorium on human cloning that many scientific groups have pledged to adhere to. "It's unfortunate that [Seed] would prey on the uninformed." Seed could not be reached for comment.

Ironically, some opponents of human cloning in Congress are delighted by Seed's announcement. Seed's undertaking "certainly could help, and definitely would not harm, my efforts" to get legislation passed to ban cloning, Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) told ScienceNOW. Human cloning, he says, "raises very serious moral and ethical issues that society has not begun to work through yet."