HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The world's first human clone, a 7-pound baby named Eve, was born Thursday, according to a chemist connected to a sect that believes life on Earth was created by extraterrestrials.
The 1-day-old girl was born by Caesarean section and will be home in three days, said Brigitte Boisselier, a chemist and CEO of Clonaid, the company that conducted the experiment. She said the baby was born at 11:55 a.m., but she wouldn't say where.
Other scientists expressed doubt that Clonaid could clone a human. And a federal official said the matter would be investigated to see if any laws were broken.
Boisselier said the baby, dubbed "Eve" by the scientists, is a clone of a 31-year-old American woman. The woman donated the DNA for the cloning process, had the resulting embryo implanted and then gestated the baby, Boisselier said. If confirmed, that would make the child an exact genetic duplicate of her mother -- the same as an identical twin.
Boisselier, who wouldn't reveal any names, said the mother had resorted to cloning because her husband was infertile.
"The baby is very healthy," she said. "The parents are happy. I hope that you remember them when you talk about this baby -- not like a monster, like some results of something that is disgusting."
Boisselier did not immediately present DNA evidence showing a genetic match between mother and daughter.
Michael Guillen, a former science editor at ABC-TV, told reporters at the news conference he was lining up "independent world-class experts" to perform DNA tests on the mother and baby. He said he was not being paid by Clonaid.
Boisselier said results would come within nine days.
"You can still go back to your office and treat me as a fraud," she said. "You have one week to do that."
Most scientists, already skeptical of Boisellier's ability to produce a human clone, will probably demand to know exactly how the DNA testing was done before they believe the announcement.
"We'll wait and see, I guess. I'm still a skeptic and I'm hoping that it's not true," said University of Georgia cloning expert Steve Stice.
Boisselier said she expects four more babies -- from North America, Europe and two from Asia -- to be born in a few weeks. Two of the couples are using preserved cells taken from their own children before their deaths, and one is a lesbian couple, she said.
The couples were not asked to pay for the procedures but some had invested in Clonaid, she said.
Boisselier said 20 more cloning attempts were planned for January.
Clonaid was founded in the Bahamas in 1997 by Claude Vorilhon, a former French journalist and leader of a group called the Raelians. Vorilhon and his followers claim aliens visiting him in the 1970s revealed they had created all life on Earth through genetic engineering.
Boisselier, who claims two chemistry degrees and previously was marketing director for a chemical company in France, identifies herself as a Raelian "bishop" and said Clonaid retains philosophical but not economic links to the Raelians. She is not a specialist in reproductive medicine.
Cloning produces a new individual using only one person's DNA. The process is technically difficult but conceptually simple. Scientists remove the genetic material from an unfertilized egg, then introduce new DNA from a cell of the animal to be cloned. Under the proper conditions, the egg begins dividing into new cells according to the instructions in the introduced DNA.
Legislation or guidelines to ban human cloning are pending in dozens of nations, including the United States. Several countries, including Britain, Israel, Japan and Germany, already have banned it. There is no specific law against it in the United States, but the Food and Drug Administration contends it must approve any human experiments in this country.
In Washington, a senior FDA official said Friday that the agency would probe whether any U.S. law was broken involving human experiments.
Boisselier would not say where Clonaid has been carrying out its experiments.
In Rome, fertility doctor Severino Antinori, who said weeks ago that a cloned baby boy would be born in January, dismissed Clonaid's claims and said the group has no scientific credibility.
So far scientists have succeeded in cloning sheep, mice, cows, pigs, goats and cats. Many scientists say cloning is too risky because of abnormalities seen in cloned animals.
Among the possible pitfalls are premature aging and other health problems.
"There's just not enough animal studies that have been completed to verify the safety of it," said Mark Westhusin, a professor at Texas A&M University who has cloned cattle and cats. He added that if the claim is genuine, "I think they're taking a big risk in terms of health hazards to the child."
Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, born in 1996, developed arthritis at a relatively early age, but it is unclear if it is related to the cloning, one of her creators said earlier this year.
Last year, scientists in Massachusetts produced cloned human embryos with the intention of using them as a source of stem cells, but the embryos never grew bigger than six cells.
Dr. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology, the Massachusetts company, said before Boisselier's announcement that Clonaid has "no scientific credibility." But he and other experts do not entirely dismiss the possibility of success.
The 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention condemned the announcement. The Vatican, which holds that life begins at conception, had no immediate comment but has condemned cloning in the past because extra embryos are destroyed in the process.
Nathan Diament, policy director for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, was concerned that religious and political leaders would overreact to Friday's announcement. The group opposes cloning for human reproduction but supports using the technology to develop lifesaving medical therapies.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.