Panos Zavos, a fertility specialist who is the former partner of maverick Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori, has announced that he has cloned the first human embryo for reproductive purposes, reports the UK's Sunday Times. Claims made by Clonaid that five clones have already been born have yet to be substantiated.
Zavos announced his intention (originally in conjunction with Antinori) to use cloning techniques to produce human babies in 2001. Last April he 'severed links' with Antinori after the Italian had claimed that three women were pregnant with clones. Zavos said Antinori had 'no clones, no laboratory, no patients and no doctors to help him'. Zavos then said he still wanted to clone humans but would perfect animal cloning techniques before attempting to do so.
Now, Zavos claims to have cloned a human embryo for an American couple, saying it is being kept frozen until it undergoes further tests. He says he will only consider it for implantation if he is certain it is free from abnormalities and is capable of healthy development. He would rather be 'cautious' than 'irresponsible', adding 'we are willing to risk a low pregnancy rate, but a more safe pregnancy rate. We want to make sure the embryo is healthy and has passed all its physicals before we implant it'.
Zavos apparently has the support of Robert Edwards, the British embryologist who was jointly responsible for the first ever IVF birth in 1978. Edwards is now the editor of the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online, and confirms that he will publish Zavos' work on cloning.