WASHINGTON — A religious cult that believes aliens created the first people claims it is responsible for the first cloned human baby in history being born today.
The announcement, made by French scientist and member of the Raelian sect Brigitte Boisselier, states that a baby girl was born by caesarean section, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. The birth “went very well,” Boisselier is reported to have said in a telephone interview with the French news organization.
Brigitte Boisselier, French scientist, Raelian sect member
Earlier in the day, spokeswoman Nadine Gary said today the group intended to have video equipment at a news briefing in Florida and would have an “independent inspector” take DNA evidence from baby and mother.
Many scientists have been skeptical about the ability of the group’s Las Vegas, Nevada-based Clonaid project to accomplish the feat. The company was founded in the Bahamas in 1997 by Claude Vorilhon, a former French journalist and leader of the Raelians.
Earlier, Bosselier, the millennial cult’s chief scientist and managing director of Clonaid, had predicted a baby girl, genetically identical to her 30-year-old mother, would be delivered by the end of the year.
Five followers of Raelianism were reportedly implanted with cloned embryos earlier this year as the UFO cult raced with maverick Italian gynecologist Severino Antinori to be the first to deliver a cloned human baby.
Two U.S. couples, two Asian couples and one European couple are involved in the project. One of the American couples was expecting the first birth.
Raelians, who claim to number 55,000 people worldwide, believe the first humans were cloned by aliens who visited the Earth in flying saucers 25,000 years ago.
They believe these aliens, or Elohim – a Hebrew word referring to God – will return to Jerusalem when there is world peace and an embassy has been built for them.
Vorilhon, the movement’s founder, is a former French motoring journalist and racing car driver, who renamed himself Rael after supposedly being visited in 1973 by a member of the Elohim. He described his visitor as being about 3-feet tall with long black hair, almond-shaped eyes, olive skin and exuding “harmony and humor.”
He says he discovered through this meeting that his father was an alien, and claims he was taken in the flying saucer to meet Jesus, Buddha and Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons. Rael, who lives in Quebec, now describes himself as a prophet and claims that cloning will enable humanity to attain eternal life.
Meanwhile, Antinori expects his first cloned baby to be delivered next month.
The predominant cloning method around the world entails removing the nucleus, or core, from an egg and replacing it with DNA from a donor. This DNA “reprograms” the egg, transferring into it the entire genetic code of the donor.
Regarding today’s announced human cloning, no independent scientific confirmation is yet available that the baby is in fact a clone. If so, the child would be genetically identical to the donor of the implanted nucleus of the egg from which the baby grew.
The big problem with cloning is to ensure that all the genes in this transferred code work properly, performing the dazzlingly complex business of making and repairing tissue.
Wide-ranging tests in lab animals, and the experience of cloned farm animals including Dolly the Sheep, have found that – even though all the genes are there – many of them do not appear to switch on and off as they should.
Malfunctioning genes can cause an embryo to become malformed, prompting the body to expel it in a miscarriage.
The Raelians, said Boisselier, had brought together cells to obtain more than 300 human embryos ahead of implantation.
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.
Many biotechnologists are repelled by the ethical dilemma posed by human cloning as well as the risk to the first cloned babies, and many governments have raced to pass laws that ban reproductive cloning.
Yet this has not prevented a race among scientific mavericks to become the first to clone a human, which the Raelians now claim to have won.
U.S. fertility specialist Panos Zavos told Congress in May that five groups of scientists were racing to produce the first cloned human baby.
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