Skip to main content /transcript




Antinori Unveils Plans for Human Cloning

Aired August 7, 2001 - 13:00   ET


DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Two little questions are giving rise today to a controversy of Biblical proportions. The issue is human cloning, and the questions are: Can we, and should we? An announcement is due any minute now that could change the world.

We begin at the National Academy of Sciences, where a scientist and entrepreneur, about to unveil plans to try to impregnate 200 women using cloned DNA. Now, you're looking at where the conference is being held and we plan live coverage for you here on CNN. Already, the shockwaves are rolling throughout the scientific community, the political arena, the halls of academia, you name it.

Standing by to help us navigate this uncharted territory is CNN's medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, she is in Washington, and "TIME" magazine correspondent Andrew Goldstein. He is in New York.

First to you, Elizabeth.


KELLEY: We're obviously having a little trouble with our audio there. We'll get back to Elizabeth as soon as we get that straightened out.

Andrew, let's start with you. You did some reporting extensively on this cloning controversy in this week's issue of "TIME" magazine that I've seen. Let's start looking through that. What did you find that struck you where most people fall on this issue at this point?

ANDREW GOLDSTEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, what's interesting about what Doctor Antinori is trying to do is he has moved the timeline a lot sooner than we had all thought. The debate in Congress last week was about whether or not we should allow therapeutic cloning. Everybody agreed that we should ban exactly what Dr. Antinori is trying to do.

And so right now, if this announcement is true and he's actually able to clone a human being, that's going to even further accelerate the timetable of everything that we're trying to decide in Congress.

KELLEY: Let's go through some of the findings that you guys came up with in your reporting, here. And we go through -- just as a little explainer before we start up -- you have about, one two, three, four, five, six -- six questions that you did. But what you looked at with the question was the science and the ethics of each question.

So let's start with the first one. What's acceptable in cloning? What did you find?

GOLDSTEIN: Well, with adult stem cells, which is on the far, very morally acceptable side, pretty much everybody agrees that it's OK to take an adult stem cell and to -- the word clone just means copy -- and to copy those cells and try and use them to eventually come up with cures for things like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. The problem with that is not ethical, but it's simply practical. Most scientists don't believe that those are going to be as versatile or as easy to replicate as embryonic stem cells, which are more ethically dubious.

KELLEY: And acceptable also was discarded embryos, they felt?

GOLDSTEIN: That is not ethically acceptable for everybody, because it still requires destroying embryos. But what makes the discarded embryos kind of a moral escape hatch for a lot of right-to- lifers is that those embryos actually already exist and are ready to be thrown out. They're sitting in, you know, fertility clinics frozen, left over from in vitro fertilization. So it's easier for some people to say, well, we can do research on these embryos as long as we don't create embryos on our own that we will then destroy.

KELLEY: And then therapeutic cloning -- what did you find on that?

GOLDSTEIN: Therapeutic cloning is -- now we're moving towards the more tenuous moral gain. Therapeutic cloning is when you take the DNA from one cell and put into a woman's egg, and then use that to eventually produce the stem cells that you want. Scientists see this as being the real boon to this kind of research, because the whole goal of stem cell research is to create new organs and new tissues that you could then transplant into people.

The problem with that, if you don't use cloned embryos, is that humans normally reject that kind of tissue. If you actually have your own DNA as part of that -- as part of those stem cells, then you end up with very little chance of rejection. But on the ethically bad side, I guess, is that you're then actually creating embryos that you will then be destroying.

KELLEY: And that's one of the things that was not acceptable, I see. And from your reporting here, cloning to destroy, designer babies and human cloning, as we keep going through this.

Tell us about the cloning to destroy. Most folks are not in favor of making human embryos to go ahead and use them for research.

GOLDSTEIN: Right. The Jones Institute, which is in Virginia, they are actually taking eggs, fertilizing them with sperm and creating embryos solely to do research on. Once they create those embryos they're going to extract the stem cells and then clone, or let those stem cells reproduce, until they have all kinds of stem cell lines to do research on. A lot of people think that that is not right, because now we're suddenly in the business of creating something that could become a human being simply in order to destroy it.

KELLEY: And what about designing your own little person? How did you find the research was on that?

GOLDSTEIN: This is where we're getting into what I think most people feel is totally unacceptable. And this is where you would -- when you actually do the cloning, you are picking certain DNA in order to make a baby that will not have certain characteristics that are bad or that will have characteristics that are good. The people who are in support of this say that if we know that a baby is going to have some genetic defects already, then why not beforehand use the DNA transfer technology to make it so they don't actually have those defects. But we're also then getting into Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," in terms of creating babies that we want and not wanting babies -- not being able to create babies that we may not want.

KELLEY: We've watched sheep and other animals be cloned, but then now we get to humans and people are backing off of that. I don't know that there was such a great outcry over the animals as much, certainly now, as there is over humans.

GOLDSTEIN: And this is where we are with Dr. Antinori, on the far end of the ethical spectrum. And there are two reasons why people are unhappy about this. One is simply a safety one. When they cloned Dolly, 98 percent or so of the animals they tried to clone ended up not working out, either dying prematurely or not living at all. And so one of the -- if he's going to be impregnating 200 women, we're going to have 196 or more that aren't going to work. Are those real babies? Are those babies that we're actually killing? That's ethically tenuous at best.

KELLEY: Took them 277 times to get Dolly.

GOLDSTEIN: Exactly. Exactly. And we don't know if the baby that's going to be born is going to be born with defects, is going to die early -- we don't really know what's going to happen. And that's why I guess the second problem with this is simply the idea that we're now creating a human being that is genetically exact to another human being. Not actually exact. I mean, some people think that you're going to be creating the exact same person. That's definitely not the case.

KELLEY: Andrew, thanks. Let me interrupt you for just a quick moment. It looks like they're kind of getting the folks put back in place for this conference here and we want to bring Elizabeth Cohen in. We have got her audio fixed, as we watch and wait to see when this gets started up.

Elizabeth, what have you found so far? You had an interesting interview yesterday with one of the doctors who wants to do this.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really been so interesting, Donna. I've been to a lot of scientific conferences. I've never seen the kind of chaos, the kind of bitterness that is happening here between scientists who want to clone human beings and those who don't.

What we're seeing here is that the scientists who want to clone human beings -- it's the gentlemen who are sitting next to each other with the white hair and with the dark air -- they -- one is from the United States, one is from Italy. And they are in the process of beginning the process to clone human beings.

As a matter of fact, they're going to announce it now. but we already know some of the details. They say in 30 days they're going to begin the effort to clone embryos. So that embryo would be a genetic clone of some other human and being on this earth. And they hope to insert that embryo into a womens' uteruses in the beginning of 2002. They would then have births, theoretically, nine months later.

Let's talk a little bit about how they'll do it. They've recruited some 200 infertile couples from around the world who have -- who they say have no other way of having a baby. They would make an embryo that's a clone of either the mother or the father. They would impregnate the mother with that embryo and again, theoretically, nine months later have a child. And we have, for the first time, a more specific time line here. They hope that in the beginning of 2002 to have those embryos ready to impregnate the women. And so theoretically, then, you would see birth nine months later.

Now, you can imagine how angry and how bitter that makes people, because there's a visceral reaction to cloning. Why would you want to make a copy of someone who already exists? It just brings up all sorts of frightening images in peoples' minds. Not only that, but there are safety considerations. When people have tried to clone animals...

KELLEY: Elizabeth, I'm sorry. Let me interrupt you for just a movement because they're starting to speak at the conference. So let's listen in.

DR. SEVERINO ANTINORI, INT'L ASSOCIATED RESEARCH INSTITUTE: ... in Rome, we organize with professors (UNINTELLIGIBLE), biologists, andrologists, gynecologists, also. Paleontology, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the human clone. Light, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you see it?

ANTINORI: No more -- light. But is -- partial. The lighting is wrong. Now you can see the start of the modern cloning. You can see the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), 1981. Also, especially 1996 forward. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) group of Edinburgh -- cloning with a sheep Dolly.


Please. Next slide please.

I am not positive to explain because I don't see this (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's limited.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: Do you want to trade places?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:: If you like to move even here. Why don't you sit here?

KELLEY: This is Dr. Antinori. He is the director of Rome's International Associated Research Institute, trying to explain.

ANTINORI: ... the cloning procedure, recipient donor, nuclear transfer.

Next slide, please. You can see cloning in the mouse.

Next slide, please. You can see Dolly from Edinburgh.

Next slide, please. You can see monkey cloning.

Next slide, please. This slide you can see the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) transfer, particularly this procedure to obtain the stem cell for the cloning for other procedures.

Next slide, please. I want to explain the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) genetic diagnosis.

In this light, you can see genetic abnormality (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of the genetic situation, where we can do to perform before the embryo transfer. I want to remember -- we suggest our project, my consortium, is to obtain one group of human cloning, and to perform the study, the resulting genetic diagnosis before the transfer. The first step of my project is to only started this group with the freezing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) transfer in human.

Next slide, please. In this slide, you can see there a lot of procedures in micromanipulation. I would like to remember each procedure. Five years ago, I remember in Rome when I presented (UNINTELLIGIBLE) insemination, in this Congress, they went (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In this conference, we demonstrate the possibility to obtain in male infertility a good result with -- with introduced the spermatozoa in it. But a lot of people in this time, they are afraid for this manipulation. Now it's routine.

Next slide, please. In this slide, you can see the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) genetic diagnosis. You can do the diagnosis with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). also in polar body by opposite. Also in biopsy (ph) stage.

Next slide. please. You can see the biopsy in polar body.

Next slide, please. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) biopsy.

Next slide, please. You can see also the procedure for the reprogramming of somatic nuclear (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

I would like point out this procedure, because it lasted six months. My consortium, especially other group outside of Italy, we try in animal to recloning, to use the clone, but recloning means using after (UNINTELLIGIBLE) another egg, and second egg and third egg. But recloning is -- we suggest the possibility to elongate the time in the genetic program, for reviews the abnormality of the question.

Next slide please. About the risk, it's important point of my relations. About the risk, I want to read my paper. Several risk factors are associated with thought to feed associate with in vitro culture, a replicate of cloning. The embryo from domestic animal. Culture conditions have shown to profoundly influence the development (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of bovine embryo culture in vitro for several days. After this uterine transfer, some of them have (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Similarly, some of the embryo for this farm animal, when cultivated with somatic cell for several day, again, developing large size fetuses.

When sheep and bovine embryo were cultivated in medium, supplemented with the human cell, it then transfer it utero a significant incidence of fatal -- it presents an anomaly. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) leave the formation organ dysfunction was all surveyed in resulting large offspring.

However, the incidents of the syndrome remain neither predictable, nor reproducible. Among other biological parameters, such as the development of synchrony between the cloning embryo and the uterine environment, as well as present a dysfunction, nonphysiological embryo culture condition seem to be associated with a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for the large offspring. Fatal overdose may also result from alternate expression in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) recently was demonstrated in sheep and that large offspring fetuses originating from fetal culture embryo (UNINTELLIGIBLE). A significant reduction (UNINTELLIGIBLE) associated with reduced metalation (ph).

Your medical study on some newborn domestic and cloned with (UNINTELLIGIBLE), led to the assumption that most likely organic abnormality of energy metabolism in utero and create abnormal fetus grow in poor geological conditions when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) life.

With regard to the human, this should be emphasized that during the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) human embryo culture for assist the reproduction, elevate the development has been also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) IVF procedure, offspring bearing and above the usual rate generally obtained among (UNINTELLIGIBLE) born infants.

I want to comment for this consideration. For avoid complete risk in first step, we tried to perform the embryo in humans, to only for study and for freezing, no transfer. The second step, we suggest to perform during the pregnancy, to perform allow the possibility to investigation the abnormality of the fetus, like 10 years when I introduced the first baby in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) humans.

But in monitoring, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), proceed to bring the biopsy, ultrasound, ultrascan, three dimensional. Every week, instead of the start of the grow of the fetuses, I have the possibility to exclude completing most or part of the procedure to transfer -- to permit the birth of the baby with abnormality.

Next slide, please. In this slide, you can see the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cloning.

Next slide, please. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- this morning, a lot of colleagues (UNINTELLIGIBLE), is important in this problem.

Next slide, please. In this slide, you can see the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cloning for produced stem cell (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for different situation pathology. But one pathology is disease in testicle. When there is the men without spermatozoa, we would suggest two (UNINTELLIGIBLE). One, the first (UNINTELLIGIBLE), to put in testicle with pathology.

KELLEY: This is Dr. Severino Antonori and the National Academy of Sciences at the conference on cloning.

We have our correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She is there in Washington, along with Andrew Goldstein, and he is there in New York, and "Time" magazine reporter, and he was just involved with other reporters there with the magazine, and the article was titled "Cloning: Where Do You Draw the Line?"

What we've heard Dr. Antinori talking about and using some slides to tell us what we're looking at a bit. He talked about the cloning of animals, and the process, and how to advance it to humans, and then also the genetic abnormalities and the risk involved certainly when you're cloning.

Elizabeth, are the couples aware of the risk? And what did you get when you talked to Dr. Zavos? And Dr. Zavos is going to be speaking soon, and we'll be taking him live when he does.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Zavos insists that the risks are not great, and just like any other obstetrician would, that his people will be telling the patients that there is some risk, but it's minimal.

What Dr. Antinori basically talked about is that they would use the same procedure that they used with Dolly to clone a human being, and they would use something called preimplantation diagnosis to see that the embryos are normal. This is done that's done all the time these days with in vitro fertilization. You take the embryo and screen it for abnormalities.

He then said that every week of the pregnancy, they would do various tests to see whether the fetus was normal: amniocentesis, ultrasound, other kinds of tests.

This group also told us today that if there are abnormalities, the parents can choose to abort, as parents do sometimes when they find out, for example, that a child has Down's syndrome, through an amniocentesis, just in a regular pregnancy.

So they outline their plan, which is to use the same procedure that was used with Dolly, to use preimplantation diagnosis; which is where a cell is taken from an embryo, to see if it has any abnormalities -- if there are abnormalities, they don't implant it into the woman -- once it's implanted, they us various screening techniques, and if there is something wrong, then the woman could have an abortion.

Let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Antinori. He is the same doctor who seven years ago helped a 62-year-old woman get pregnant, in Italy. That raised quite an uproar. This is a man who really believes that technology is there to assist people to get pregnant who otherwise might not, even if it involves cloning -- Donna.

KELLEY: That's right, it was back in 1994, the 62-year-old mother there. Then in 1996, a couple of years later, he helped a 59- year-old British unmarried mother to have twins.

Andrew, do you think that in your reporting, that people were aware of the risk -- the couples who may come forward -- and they've talked about this?

GOLDSTEIN: Typically, the couples are very well aware of the risk. That's not actually the issue here. You can tell that Dr. Antinori spends huge amount of his time and resources making sure that the couples involved -- especially the mother involved -- have incredible choice and opportunities here and is really allowed to abort this fetus at any point.

The problem according to right-to-lifers and a lot of bioethicists is that he gives very little moral weight to the embryo or being that is created, and that's the challenge in terms of trying to figure out some sort of way of allowing infertile couples to get a baby, but also not crossing lines that we don't want to do.

KELLEY: We're going to have more of the conference and some of our polling numbers that show how people feel about this after a quick break.



Back to the top