Cloning Q & A

Here are the answers to some of the questions arising from the claims about human cloning:

Q: How is a clone produced?

A: The process sounds simple, but is actually difficult to execute. Scientists must first harvest an unfertilized egg from a female donor, remove its genetic material and replace that material with new DNA from a cell of the animal to be cloned. The reconstructed egg is coaxed into dividing with the help of a chemical bath or an electrical shock. Ultimately such cells could grow into a genetically identical copy of the DNA donor.

Q: What's the background of the group claiming to have produced a human clone?

A: The organization is called Clonaid and is affiliated with a religious sect -- the Raelian movement -- whose founder believes life on Earth was created by extraterrestrials. While the premise may sound fantastic, it is technically possible Clonaid produced a clone if it hired the right scientists.

Q: How will the public know if Clonaid is telling the truth?

A: Clonaid has promised to allow outside DNA experts conduct tests to prove their claim. Most likely, forensic experts would use the same methods commonly used to identify bodies. If so, the scientists will either draw blood from both mother and baby or swab the inside of their mouths to get DNA samples.

If the baby is a clone, its DNA will be an identical match of the woman who was said to be cloned.

Q: What physical problems could a cloned baby develop?

A: Cloned mammals such as sheep and cattle have become obese and arthritic, and have shown signs of premature aging. Since a human clone has never before been born, it's impossible to say for sure what difficulties one might have.

Q: Why would parents want a cloned child?

A: According to Clonaid, the mother of this particular baby chose the cloning process because her husband is infertile. The group says other clients are trying to have babies that will genetically match children they have already parented and lost.