London: Parents who lose their children in accidents may be able to clone their copies to replace them within 50 years, a British scientist who won this year’s Nobel prize for medicine has claimed.
Sir John Gurdon, whose work cloning frogs in the 1950s and 60s led to the later creation of Dolly the sheep by Edinburgh scientists in 1996, has said that progression to human cloning could happen within half a century.
Although any attempt to clone an entire human would raise a host of complex ethical issues, the biologist claimed people would soon overcome their concerns if the technique became medically useful.
Gurdon said that in-vitro fertilisation was regarded with extreme suspicion when it was first developed but became widely accepted after the birth of Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby”, in 1978.
Major improvements in cloning methods would have to be made before they could be applied to humans because the vast majority of cloned animal embryos today are deformed, he added.
Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s ‘The Life Scientific’, he said he had predicted at the time of his frog experiments that the successful cloning of a mammal would happen within 50 years, and that “maybe the same answer is appropriate” for the step to human cloning.
“When my first frog experiments were done an eminent American reporter came down and said ‘How long will it be before these things can be done in mammals or humans?’” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
“I said: ‘Well, it could be anywhere between 10 years and 100 years – how about 50 years?’ It turned out that wasn’t far off the mark as far as Dolly was concerned.
Maybe the same answer is appropriate,” he said.
Sir John added that cloning a human being effectively means making an identical twin, and doctors would therefore simply be “copying what nature has already produced”.