Science: Human cloning techniques in use

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Scientists investigating genetic problems are already experimenting on adult human cells with techniques that could pave the way to human cloning, according to new reports.

Experts in the field warned that while those people might not be interested in using their skills for cloning, others who followed them would - and that that would make the arrival of the first human clones inevitable.

Following the heavily-hyped claims by Dr Richard Seed, a Chicago-based physicist, that he intends to open a cloning clinic, American scientists have begun to reveal the parallel work they are doing which could one day lead to cloning.

According to New Scientist magazine, a team led by Zev Rosenwaks at the Cornell Medical Center in New York, is already transferring nuclei from cells with chromosomal damage into healthy egg cells to see how they develop.

"If the real problem lies outside the nucleus, we might be able to fix those defects," he told the magazine. Mr Rosenwaks said the same technique could be used to grow eggs in culture for women with damaged ovaries.

Dolly the sheep, the first cloned adult mammal, was produced at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh by taking the nucleus from a healthy cell and transplanting it into an egg cell which had had its nucleus removed.

The Cornell team's work is a variation on that, and reflects a possible useful applications of cloning mentioned by Ruth Deech, head of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to Parliament last year.

Don Wolf, of the Oregon Regional Primate Centre in Beaverton, commented: "I understand there's already a bit of a race among cutting edge IVF clinics to get into this technology."