WASHINGTON — A researcher who had been preparing to work on human cloning has agreed not to attempt an experiment or research until the legality of the effort is determined, the Food and Drug Administration reported.
FDA spokesman Lawrence Bachorik said Friday that his agency has inspected a lab set up by Brigitte Boisselier in an effort to attempt human cloning.
She signed a statement committing not to attempt human cloning and not to do research using human eggs until the legality of human cloning is determined, Bachorik said.
Lawmakers have been preparing legislation to outlaw human cloning. In the meantime, FDA has insisted that no experiments can go forward without its approval.
That hasn’t discouraged a religious organization called the Raelian Movement, which argues that life on Earth was created by extraterrestrial scientists.
Its leader, Rael, started a lab – directed by Boisselier – where he vowed to clone a human somewhere in the United States.
Another group, led by an Italian fertility doctor, is promising to find another country where cloning is legal. Both teams say they have people ready to volunteer for the first human effort.
In its issue due on newsstands Monday, U.S. News & World Report says that a federal grand jury in Syracuse, N.Y., is investigating the Raelian lab. Bachorik declined to say where the lab is located. Boisselier formerly taught chemistry at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. Boisselier told a House energy and commerce subcommittee in March that her lab had received a letter from FDA warning that it would be against the law to proceed with cloning without permission.
At that time she said she did not know whether the company operating the lab, Clonaid, would proceed anyway.
She dismissed safety concerns, saying the problems have all come in cloning animals and do not apply to potential human cloning.
She said she was working with a father who was devastated by the death of his son and wants to clone him.
The FDA says any human cloning experiments in the United States would need its approval and, based on safety concerns, the agency would not approve any applications at this time.
Clones are created when the genetic material from a single cell is injected into an egg cell that has had its genes removed. The resulting baby would be like an identical twin born years later.
Ethicists note that the clone would not be a copy of the original person.
He or she would grow up in a different environment at a different time, said Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.