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Hearing Takes Place on Human Cloning

Aired August 7, 2001 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN LIVE TODAY. Hello. We're watching this conference that we've been watching for a good part of the afternoon here. National Academy of Sciences has been discussing a topic that once was the stuff of science fiction, actually -- the cloning of human beings. Scientists who say they are ready to start the human cloning are facing a pretty skeptical audience. There are those who say the process is unethical and dangerous.

Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been watching the conference as well, along with Andrew Goldstein, he is with "TIME" magazine. We will chat with them for a moment to bring us up to speed on what we've been seeing. Elizabeth, what have we heard so far?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What we've heard so far, just recently, is arguments from the two groups that are trying to clone a human being; about how A, they can do it, and B, they say it's a good idea. Now of course as our polls have showed, the vast majority, ninety-something percent of Americans think this is a terrible idea.

But they say that it is a humanitarian effort, that there are infertile couples everywhere that can't have a baby any other way, but they could clone either the mother or the father to obtain a baby. And we have heard about that this afternoon.

We have also heard about animal experiments with cloning. Many animal experiments have shown that you get miscarriages or that you get deformed babies. We are going to hear now from Panos Zavos who is going to talk about how he thinks that those experiments are not right.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

PANOS ZAVOS, ANDROLOGY INSTITUTE: Via development of proper tissue cultures, utilizing the proper cell populations for the reprogramming and then furthermore, of course, is to apply the PGD information available today to us today in order to screen those embryos for pre-implantation genetics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Now here's the questioners that I have in order. Singer (ph) , McCabe (ph) , Gallis (ph) , Jaenisch, Charo, Robertson, Coleman, and then we will start again -- Dr. Singer.

QUESTION: The first question I would like to ask is for Dr. Boisselier. I can appreciate that because you're involved in a private enterprise you don't feel free to tell us about the kinds of results you are getting or even some of the methods you may be using. On the other hand, the job of our panel is to learn as much as we can about what is going on and what the promise and problems are with the proposed technology.

So in the interest of like that I would like to push you just a little bit and to see if you would be willing to tell us what kinds of diagnostic tests you are using without your having to feel obliged to tell us the results.

DR. BRIGITTE BOISSELIER, CLONAID: Oh, OK, well it's also the question of Dr. Weissman (ph) actually. You know, I've been reading all this publication about imprinted genes so we developed a diagnosis to check. Among -- human beings have 42 -- is that correct -- I think most of us have 42 human genes imprinted that could be checked in the early stage.

We didn't develop for the 42, but we can do in a routine about 10 of them and see how reproducible they are, imprinted or not. And so I was really interested by Dr. Jaenisch results since he had been checking six genes on a routine base and received very -- a lot of variation. And we, depending on the immediate culture on the process that we're using, we have very reproducible imprinting results.

QUESTION: What is it you're checking about the imprinted genes?

BOISSELIER: Whether they are imprinted or not. What I mean is that whether they are expressed or not in that...

QUESTION: You are looking at expression?

BOISSELIER: Yes. We do. So what -- what I'm saying is that we have reproducible data today that could be publishable and we hope that's what we will be able to publish.

QUESTION: And you are checking expression on single cells from a blastocyst (ph) ?

BOISSELIER: From single cells, yes.

QUESTION: Is there after somatic cell nuclear transfer? I am a bit confused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I assume.

BOISSELIER: Yes, of course.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, Brigitte.

QUESTION: So you have done somatic cell nuclear transfer into an empty egg. You have developed them to four cell, eight cell? You've taken a single cell, and you've looked at imprinted boxes of 10-genes?

BOISSELIER: This is correct.

KELLEY: That' why they get into some of this science. It can be a little confusing for some of us. Elizabeth Cohen, you are able to kind of straighten this out for us a little bit. I was finally getting it as she was talking about single cells something, and then she said taking an empty egg and turning it into something. That was helpful. Can you bring us along on that, on some of this scientific talk?

COHEN: Sure, exactly. What they do when they try to clone someone is you take a normal from a woman. You take out the nucleus, so you just basically have the shell of the egg. You then take the person who is to be cloned, take that DNA out and put it into the shell of the egg and then implant that entire embryo into a woman's uterus.

What you get at the end, theoretically, is a baby that the exact same as the person who donated the DNA. And that's what she is discussing. What she is basically saying is, did it work or not? When they tried it with animals, does the DNA "take" so to speak.

KELLEY: If it is the mother who is being cloned you wouldn't have to take that part out of the of egg, though? Is that right?

COHEN: Well you would because an egg doesn't get you pregnant. You need sperm to come in there and complete it. So if I was going to clone myself I could take one of my eggs, take my genetic material out of it, because it is not enough. I cold then take a cell from my skin, which does have enough DNA to make an embryo, and then I would form an embryo which would be exactly like me.

An egg only has half the DNA you need. A skin cell, or a somatic cell, to be fancy about it, has all the DNA you need to make an embryo.

KELLEY: OK, Dr. Zavos is talking about notifying participants of the risks involved.

ZAVOS: You do the aspiration of the follicles. They are undergoing an invasive technique. The could suffer some very severe ramifications out of that to the time that those embryos are manipulated in-vitro and they can obviously be transferred and yield some sort of a -- an abnormality or some sort of a -- that the success rate if the woman is above 35 or below 35 or above 40, all those statistics are shared with the patient.

And the patient will not undergo any procedure in a medical setting as an IBF setting as it is today, unless the patient signs a series of consent forms. Therefore, the same will apply when this technology will be made available to the humans.

QUESTION: So, just a second. Did you say that you will include the data of the animal cloning?

ZAVOS: Of course we will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So next is Dr. Gelles.

QUESTION: Yes, this question is for Dr. Bossilier. I appreciate your advocacy of research in this area. And this is really a follow up question to a couple of the others. Putting it a little bit differently, what would you consider to be the key or the most -- the priority in research issues from your point of view, that -- that the community at large, not just yourself, should be investigating at this stage?

BOISSELIER: Well, I do believe that we have enough information today to proceed into the human cloning, OK. The whole debate has been in the comparison between animal and human cloning. And to answer those there will be a lot of research to do and to -- to show whether they are right or not. But the only way to do it is to produce that and to implant and get a human embryo -- cloned human embryo implanted.

Because I believe -- I do believe that we have everything we need today to proceed. And they could -- they could certainly do a lot of research on other animal and other species and that will not help for human cloning because we are dealing with different cells, different culture media, different genes, so many different things. So we need to proceed with the human cloning in order to found out -- I mean, to really get a final (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

I don't think that working and working on animal cloning will give us a lot more information. Of course there will always been information given, always that, but today we have enough to proceed. That's my -- I mean reviewing all what we have been -- all what have been published and in regard with what was said this morning, and in regard of what be have been doing in Clonaid, I think we have enough.

QUESTION: Can I just follow that for a moment? I want to clarify one thing. You did just say a few moments ago that you have developed a method to look at the expression or, I guess, methylation, I am not quite sure which, of somewhere between 10-42 of the genes.

Does that mean that if you don't get appropriate methylation you will not go forward? Is there a stopping point there?

BOISSELIER: Absolutely, of course.

QUESTION: So it has to be a perfect, or nine out of 10, or 8 out of 10?

BOISSELIER: It has to be completely reproducible, 100 percent.

QUESTION: If we can -- pardon me. Sorry, Dr. Zavos, you wanted to answer also?

ZAVOS: I wanted to say, you know, each species has some advantages.

KELLEY: Brigitte Boisselier, who is with Clonaid, talking about there would still be a lot of research yet to do. But she thinks that they have everything they need to proceed today for human cloning and she thinks they ought to get on with it.

One group of course talking about -- the two doctors -- talking about maybe November or saying earlier embryos would ready by early 2002. Andrew Goldstein with "TIME" magazine, one of the reporters on one of their later articles this week talking about cloning. Do they have something to stop that, Andrew? And what about therapeutic, for research, as opposed to human reproduction? What did you folks find?

ANDREW GOLDSTEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: What's interesting is what they are trying to do here, which is to try an convince people that as long as they can actually be successful, that they will not produce a lot of deformed babies by cloning, that it is going to be ethically OK.

But when we were talking to members of Congress last week who voted overwhelmingly against all sorts of cloning, it's the idea of producing babies without fertilization that was most important, Not just that it may not be successful. But the other issue that you bring up, which is right, is that therapeutic cloning is different and the whole idea of therapeutic cloning is never to implant the clone that you create into a woman's uterus. Don't ever try and let it be a human.

But then to use that clone to grow organs or tissues that could end up curing all sorts of disease and heart disease and Alzheimer's and so forth. So that is the other issue that this debate ends up accelerating greatly.

KELLEY: And what did you find when you talked to the folks in the house? What were their feelings about whether or not they would go for it, because there were two competing bills: One banned the cloning altogether one would have allowed the therapeutic research on cloning,

What did you find as you talked to some of the House members?

GOLDSTEIN: Most were -- the one that banned all cloning, including therapeutic cloning, won overwhelmingly, by more than 100 members. But most of those -- a lot of those members who voted against that are very much in favor stem cell research, which they have been urging Bush to go ahead and fund.

And there's actually a conflict there, because stem cell research relies on some of the exact same science that cloning relies on. So when the in the bill goes over to the Senate we think in the Senate there's no way that this exact cloning ban will pass fully through the Senate.

So we are probably not going to have a full ban of all cloning signed into law this year.

KELLEY: Do you have some of the early indications from the way that the Senate is leaning, a little bit more information on that? GOLDSTEIN: Just that they -- most of the Senate leadership has said they want to take this more slowly and more thoughtfully, and they see it as a more complex issue than just all or nothing. And the House really took this as an all or nothing issue.

The one thing that is interesting is that Great Britain right now allows therapeutic cloning but doesn't allow the things that Dr. Antonori is trying to do, does not allow human cloning. And that's been going on for about a year now. It will be interesting to see if they have been able to separate the human cloning, which nobody really wants except for this group that we're watching today, and the therapeutic cloning, which most people actually I think would like to see the fruits of.

KELLEY: I don't know if you were able to get any of this in your --gathering in your information, Andrew, but there are some doctors, there are a fair amount of lawyers in the House and Senate. Do they think that there is anything they can do? They've done the ban now in the House, on all cloning. Do they think there is anything they can do to stop this? The are talking about November or early next year?

GOLDSTEIN: You could definitely make it so that it is illegal for the scientists that do this in this country. That's what they would like to do. But we would have to ram a bill through the Senate and get it signed very quickly in order to do that.

KELLEY: OK, let's go back to the hearing and listen a little bit more.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JAENISCH: At this point we had some preliminary data that told us it was this expression of genes in cloned animals. But we were not ready to publish this. We were ready to publish this in April, we submitted this to science. It went to peer review, and the peer reviews apparently liked it so it was published in July.

So this is the normal process of -- of scientific research. this is normal research.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAVOS: I am not going to allow you to lecture to me.

JAENISCH: Just let me finish -- just let me finish.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will get plenty of time to answer the questions after he is done

ZAVOS: If he has a question, I will answer it. If he has a comment, I will comment as well, and then we will continue.

(CROSSTALK) ANTINORI: It is impossible to extrapolate the result of this, biological resulting animal project in human system. It is necessary to explain this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Antinori, please.

(CROSSTALK)

JAENISCH: Let me go to the facts here...

ZAVOS: If it is not a publication and it is an editorial, as a scientist you should know better than editorializing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Zavos, you are out of order right now.

JAENISCH: The paper was published in July, that is indeed a paper. The evidence is very sure about this data, so you are right. We attributes the defects in the clones to preexisting variations in the S cells, that for the purpose of the paper, to explain the difference between stem cell-derived clones and somatic clones. And I totally agree with you, in human cloning you would not use embryonic stem cells. There is no use in this.

However, as I said this morning, we again have circumstantial if you want so -- I would call it preliminary evidence...

ZAVOS: No, it's circumstantial, it is not preliminary.

JAENISCH: ... preliminary evidence -- preliminary evidence that cumulus cell clones, the cumulus cells are never cultured. They are taken out of the embryo -- and this was done together with Janamagochie's (ph) Laboratory -- taking out of the embryo, the nucleus is isolated, transferred into the "O" site and you derive a cloned pup from the cumulus cell derived nucleus, all right.

When we look at those from gene expression, this is now preliminary evidence. I'm not ready to publish this because this is a very complex experiment. You probably don't realize how difficult these experiments are and to -- and to -- to interpret them in a way that you know what you are doing, right? So we try to do that.

So we have preliminary evidence, that, indeed, when we look at gene expression in cumulus derived clones, that there is lots of disregulation. Some are similar to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) clones, some is not. Some imprinted genes are disregulated, some are not. We have to understand this. This is very important and that's what we call preliminary. That is in general use in science. So, I think, Dr. Zavos, you are missing the crucial point. You are mixing it all up.

ZAVOS: I have your paper here, if you want to review it.

JAENISCH: No, I don't want to review it, I know it.

ZAVOS: All right. JAENISCH: The crucial point is, can you really pre-screen embryos for abnormalities? And we heard the we can use very sophisticated techniques like scanners, single or multicolored -- so I think this is about as effective to detect reprogramming errors as the opinion of uninformed couples about the couples about the cloning process.

It is ineffective, you can not do that. I think have I summarized before to you that it is impossible at this point to look at those defects, the genetic abnormalities, which I agree, clinicians can defect very efficiently, are not the problem. These are the subtle problems of reprogram which can not be done. So, the final point I want to make is that the -- there's no question in my mind, yes, there are species --differences between all the five species, there is no question.

But the basic biological problem, that of reprogramming, there if just no doubt about this effect, is absolutely similar in all mammals. And humans are mammals, so the basic problems are the same and they are unresolved...

ZAVOS: They may not as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as you are describing it, sir.

JAENISCH: So, if I finally finish, then. I think the -- it is wrong, to my opinion, to focus as exclusively as apparently you do, on imprinted genes. Imprinted gene disregulation is part of the problem. It is not the problem -- it's part of it. Imprinted genes, I believe, indeed contribute to the growth abnormalities but they are not the only ones.

We have evidence, preliminary evidence, as you like it or not, preliminary evidence that non imprinted genes are disregulated. And they are probably contrary to this genotype. So, I think at this stage we just don't know all of the ins and outs and all the -- I think the extent of the problem which with we have. And at this time to say we look at three different genes and then we conclude the embryo is normal I think not good science.

(CROSSTALK)

ANTINORI: I want to answer. We perform implantation (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but also I am gynecologist. You not gynecologist.

KELLEY: Some impassioned debate there between Dr. Zavos and an MIT scientist, Rudolph Jaenish, I believe is how you pronounce it, but I know, Elizabeth, you are familiar with him. He is a scientist at MIT and does cloning on mice.

What was that debate about?

COHEN: That debate about basically, Rudolph Jaenisch is at MIT, we have interviewed him many times in the past. He works with mice, and he says, hey, when I try to clone mice I get lots of deformed babies. I get lots of miscarriages, and when I do get births I usually get deformed babies. I have to work hard to get a normal mouse clone.

So what he was saying to Panos Zavos, who wants to clone humans in the next few months, is how can you do this in humans. Jaenisch said to Zavos you are missing crucial evidence. You are mixing it all up.

Zavos, in return, said, What I'll do is what I have these embryos all ready to insert into a woman's uterus to start a pregnancy, I will pre-screen them. I will look at them. I'll look at the genes, and if they look good, I will implant them into the women's uterus. And if they don't look good, then I will throw them away, and we won't use them for a pregnancy.

Jaenisch tried to make the point, over and over again, I don't think your pre-screening technique is good.

We're now going to listen to Alta Charo, who is a lawyer and a bioethicist, talk about some of the ethical implications.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ALTA CHARO, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: ... request to try cloning.

ZARRELLA: I'm not sure that I understood you question. Would you be kind enough to repeat it? And put that microphone just a little bit closer, too.

CHARO: I'd like to understand better how you view the role of a medical professional, working with a patient, who has been given information and has made a request. And so I'm asking if you think that there is a role for professional medical judgment concerning a risk that you think is too high or a reason for cloning that you think is too trivial.

ZAVOS: I am not a M.D. But obviously, I do work with M.D.s all the time. I can only tell you that we would never -- and I mean never -- ever risk the patient's general health to achieve something. Between Severino and myself, we probably go 50 year-plus in the infertility market, and we have never produced an unhealthy child.

Especially, I admire Severino because he can get a 62-year-old woman give birth to a healthy child, which is not an easy assignment, by anybody's definition, because he knows what it takes to get there...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Zavos, I will move on so that we can get all the questions in. I think you answered that question.

KELLEY: Andrew Goldstein of "TIME," while they're making a change there -- I know you have to leave us at around 2:30 -- Elizabeth Cohen will stay with us, but you need to get going -- give us a little bit of your take on what you've seen here and what you heard while you were preparing with the other reporters for "TIME" magazine. GOLDSTEIN: I was just interesting here that science is moving so much faster than the law is, or than the politics are. If this press conference occurred last week before the House debate, we probably would have even had a far more lopsided vote in favor of abandoning all cloning, and we may have had the Senate pick up the bill very, quickly and get this thing moving.

So one of the more thoughtful things that some House members told us, who voted for the bill banning all cloning, was simply, I don't really know what the science is here or even what the ethics are here, but maybe we need to slow down and put a stop for now, and then actually think about it and work through these issues before we actually get to the point where we have babies who may or may not be deformed, but who are going to be cloned and all the science and all the other nightmare scenarios that may come out of this.

KELLEY: And a lot of the science is differing, as we have been hearing.

Andrew Goldstein, nice to have you join us for this 1 1/2 hours. Thanks very much -- one of the reporters from "TIME" magazine; the article is called "Cloning: Where Do You Draw the Line?"

Elizabeth Cohen, our medical correspondent, still there listening.

What is going on -- Elizabeth.

COHEN: I think that Andrew makes an interesting point about legislation. When Dolly the sheep was cloned four years ago, lawmakers from countries all over the world stepped all over each other to say this is going to be horrible if we do this in human beings, but four years later in the United States, we still do not have a law that bans human cloning -- and basically, the result of that, in many ways, is what you see here today, which is folks who are trying to clone a human being -- Donna.

KELLEY: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much -- our medical correspondent. She continues to watch the conference.I get lots of miscarriages, and when I do get births, I usually get deformed babies. I have to work hard to get a normal mouse clone."

So what he was saying to Panos Zavos, who wants to clone humans in the next few months, is how can you do this in humans. Jaenisch said to Zavos you are missing crucial evidence. You are mixing it all up.

Zavos, in return, said, What I'll do is what I have these embryos all ready to insert into a woman's uterus to start a pregnancy, I will prescreen them. I will look at them. I'll look at the genes, and if they look good, I will implant them into the women's uterus. And if they don't look good, then I will throw them away, and we won't use them for a pregnancy.

Jaenisch tried to make the point, over and over again, I don't think your prescreening technique is good. We're now going to listen to Alta Charo, who is a lawyer and a bioethicist, talk about some of the ethical implications.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ALTA CHARO, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: ... request to try cloning.

ZAVOS: I'm not sure that I understood you question. Would you be kind enough to repeat it? And put that microphone just a little bit closer, too.

CHARO: I'd like to understand better how you view the role of a medical professional, working with a patient, who has been given information and has made a request. And so I'm asking if you think that there is a role for professional medical judgment concerning a risk that you think is too high or a reason for cloning that you think is too trivial.

ZAVOS: I am not a M.D. But obviously, I do work with M.D.s all the time. I can only tell you that we would never -- and I mean never -- ever risk the patient's general health to achieve something. Between Severino and myself, we probably go 50 year-plus in the infertility market, and we have never produced an unhealthy child.

Especially, I admire Severino because he can get a 62-year-old woman give birth to a healthy child, which is not an easy assignment, by anybody's definition, because he knows what it takes to get there...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Zavos, I will move on so that we can get all the questions in. I think you answered that question.

KELLEY: Andrew Goldstein of "TIME," while they're making a change there -- I know you have to leave us at around 2:30 -- Elizabeth Cohen will stay with us, but you need to get going -- give us a little bit of your take on what you've seen here and what you heard while you were preparing with the other reporters for "TIME" magazine.

GOLDSTEIN: I was just interesting here that science is moving so much faster than the law is, or than the politics are. If this press conference occurred last week before the House debate, we probably would have even had a far more lopsided vote in favor of abandoning all cloning, and we may have had the Senate pick up the bill very, very quickly and get this thing moving.

So one of the more thoughtful things that some House members told us, who voted for the bill banning all cloning, was simply, I don't really know what the science is here or even what the ethics are here, but maybe we need to slow down and put a stop for now, and then actually think about it and work through these issues before we actually get to the point where we have babies who may or may not be deformed, but who are going to be cloned and all the science and all the other nightmare scenarios that may come out of this.

KELLEY: And a lot of the science is differing, as we have been hearing.

Andrew Goldstein, nice to have you join us for this 1 1/2 hours. Thanks very much -- one of the reporters from "TIME" magazine; the article is called "Cloning: Where Do You Draw the Line?"

Elizabeth Cohen, our medical correspondent, still there listening.

What is going on -- Elizabeth.

COHEN: I think that Andrew makes an interesting point about legislation. When Dolly the sheep was cloned four years ago, lawmakers from countries all over the world stepped all over each other to say this is going to be horrible if we do this in human beings, but four years later in the United States, we still do not have a law that bans human cloning -- and basically, the result of that, in many ways, is what you see here today, which is folks who are trying to clone a human being -- Donna.

KELLEY: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much -- our medical correspondent. She continues to watch the conference.

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