BY LILLIAM RIERA | [url=http://www.Granma.com]http://www.Granma.com[/url]
“WE are not working on cloning humans in Cuba although we are trying to clone animals,” affirmed Fidel Ovidio Castro, head of the Cloning and Transgenics Department at Havana’s Genetic and Biotechnology Engineering Center (CIGB).
The expert was amongst those presenting papers at a forum in Havana to discuss human cloning and its new paradigms for society. The meeting was organized by the Economic Friends of the Country Society, under the auspices of the Cuban Academy of Science and the Cuban Bio-ethics Committee.
In the scientist’s opinion, human beings are still not able to control all the genes involved in the animal cloning process, “which is extremely inefficient at the moment” and therefore it would be “extremely risky to carry it out on humans.”
Ovidio Castro indicated that “after manipulating hundreds of cows’ eggs to achieve a clone, 80% of the fetuses aborted or died.” To which we must add: “the anomalies and diseases that have been later detected in cloned animals.”
He explained that cloned rats inexplicably develop obesity, whilst the deceased sheep Dolly — the first animal to be cloned in the history of medicine — died from arthritis.
To date, cloning has been developed for reproductive ends in eight species of mammals (without counting the unconfirmed cloning of humans by the Raelian sect) plus one species of fish and one of frog.
Although Ovidio Castro pointed out that there are still technological barriers to be overcome in this process, he said he was optimistic that science could solve any problems.
Regarding the island’s progress in cloning, he confirmed that short-term aims were “to clone cattle to obtain animals whose milk contains proteins of high therapeutic value.” This is the trend throughout the world, “where the majority of teams are working more towards bio-pharmaceutical ends than producing better animals.”
However, he highlighted a medium-term project: “To copy animals of high genetic value.” The scientist stressed that a high level of technology would be needed to establish this routinely throughout the country.