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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Interview with Brigitte Boisselier

Aired December 27, 2002 - 11:12   ET

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

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: More now on this morning's announcement of a human cloning. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in New York with the rest on that -- hi, Dr. Gupta.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Fredricka. Well, we've been talking all morning, since 9:00 a.m. when we heard about this announcement about the possibility, a big possibility, that a human clone was actually born, and I understand we're actually trying to get a chance to speak with the clinical science director of Clonaid, which is an offshoot of the Raelian organization. Her name is Dr. Brigitte Boisselier.

And I am not sure -- is she -- OK. Dr. Boisselier, can you hear me OK?

BRIGITTE BOISSELIER, SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR, CLONAID: Yes, I do hear you. Good morning.

GUPTA: OK. Thank you very much for joining us. I know a lot of people are very interested in what you had to say this morning at 9:00, and I'd like to ask you as many questions as I can over the next few minutes.

Dr. Boisselier, it's so hard to actually think about the fact that a human has been cloned, and I think a lot of people are very skeptical, to be perfectly honest, that this has actually happened.

What kind of assurances can you tell people today that, in fact, this actually did occur yesterday?

BOISSELIER: OK. So I told you, that once the baby is born, I will tell you. So the baby was born yesterday, and she's fine. She's doing real fine, and the parents are happy.

Now, the proof will be given by an independent expert that has been hired by somebody else, so I will grant access to the baby and to the mother, because the baby is the clone of the mother, so I will grant access to them to one independent expert that I don't know -- I don't even know his name and his whereabouts, but I trust he's respectful enough so that you can trust him.

(CROSSTALK)

BOISSELIER: That's the only proof I can give you, actually.

GUPTA: OK. Why did you decide to do that? You talk to scientists, and I've talked to a lot of scientists out in the community, and they're just very concerned about this. They are concerned about the fact that the first human clones produced in the same technique that was used to produce Dolly may be damaged, they may be defective, they may be born dead. They think it is really, really dangerous to try and do this. Why did you do this?

BOISSELIER: Well, you have to realize that the people who are saying this is dangerous are the ones that are expert in cow cloning or cow reproduction or mice reproduction, and you should ask them, and I hope that one day this will be said to everybody, they have defects when they do cow cloning, but they have the same defect when they do IVF of the cow.

So the problem -- the defects they have seen are not related to cow cloning, but it is related to lack of knowledge of cow assisted reproduction.

And that's the point from the start. People have been talking about defects for this reason without checking what we know about in IVF of human people, and we have experts with 24 years of experience in assisted reproduction of humans and we have benefited from that, so we've benefited from a lot of work that has been done on cow cloning, of course, because my expert, the one technician who did the embryos, actually, have been doing more than 3,000 cow embryos before touching any human eggs.

And that was the minimum that was expecting (ph). But we benefit from them, but we've benefited a lot from the IVF knowledge that was gathered for the last 24 years.

GUPTA: And I want to get into that in just a couple of minutes. Let me just ask you a couple of very quick questions. Is this baby born, is this baby healthy?

BOISSELIER: The baby is healthy. Every type that have been performed (ph) are perfectly correct. Our pediatrician has been on her side since the birth, and now I think he's resting, and everybody's happy.

It's a real -- everybody's thrilled in the team, and I'm really thankful for what they have done, for the dedication and thankful to Rael, who leaded us in...

GUPTA: And I'm sure they're thrilled, Doctor, but I am sure they are also very concerned because of what have we've seen of animal cloning is that while the animal clones may actually be born healthy, within the first several weeks of life, they start to develop some very, very significant medical problems, some of them even die within the first couple of weeks. Despite being born healthy, can you address those concerns at all today?

BOISSELIER: Well, we are concerned because this baby is -- not concerned the way you imply, we're concerned because we want this baby to be healthy and have a happy life, and we know what would be the backlash if anything was going wrong, but I can assure you that everything is real fine with the baby.

GUPTA: And Doctor, just because you...

(CROSSTALK)

BOISSELIER: And we have no clue of anything going wrong.

GUPTA: OK. Doctor, as one of these scientific questions, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something. And I think that is a question that applies here. We talked about the science, about how you actually do this, but I guess I still want to get back to this -- why did you decide to do this, not scientifically, not to prove that it could be done, but why? What is your goal here with the cloning of human beings if, in fact, that's what happened yesterday?

BOISSELIER: There have been several -- well, several goals I should say.

The first one, certainly, when Dolly appeared, when the establishment said this should never happen, at that time I said, How come? And Rael said -- he is the spiritual leader and the founder of Clonaid, and he said how come that science can be stopped? Prohibition of science cannot be. We all know what prohibition leads to, so what -- he founded Clonaid and I was happy to follow him at that time, and for -- through the years, I started to have requests from parents who would like to have a child, infertile couple, homosexual couples, single individuals or people with AIDS, or all kinds of peoples who would like to benefit from this service.

And after a few years talking to them, actually, I did that for them, because I think they deserve it, and it's not fair just to tell them that they shouldn't do it for what, for human dignity?

To me, I'd like to have the definition of human dignity. Is giving a baby with their own genes to parents who have been trying to get babies for such a long time, is that against human dignity? I don't think so.

GUPTA: Well, with all due respect though, doctor...

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: I'm sorry. I'm sorry to interrupt. Usually it's a combination of genes that actually lead to a baby. The point -- there are ways of actually conceiving a child for infertile couples using some of the traditional techniques, but you've taken it a step further. You have done -- at least what you're saying is that you've done cloning.

I wanted just to comment on a couple of things that you also said before, which is your plan is to not only clone, but to eventually do this thing called growth acceleration so these clones grow up quickly and start to very quickly be like the person from which they are cloned.

In addition to that, you would like to actually imprint thoughts and memories of the donor clone into the recipient clone so the person not only looks like the person, but acts, thinks, and all those sorts of things like the person as well. Your goal is to perpetuate life indefinitely, eternally, as you say. Is that what you're trying to do here?

BOISSELIER: Well, this is not something we can do right now. I could only today do the belated twin of an individual. We do believe that one day we'll be able to do the accelerated growth process, and we do believe one day we'll be able to download and upload our personality to a new body. This is -- this could sound like science fiction, just like cloning was sounding like science fiction in 1973 when Rael talked about it.

Today it's reality. It's our science of today. The science of the future will lead us to humanity where indeed we will be deaf (ph). And it is a completely different society that is coming, and I'm very happy to make it happen.

GUPTA: Well, Doctor, certainly a lot of people are very interested in what you have to say, but a lot of people who do believe in the value of cloning in some form, such as a therapeutic cloning, think that you may have given them a black eye today, because a lot of people are so skeptical of it is that you're saying, a lot of people are going to be turned off, quite honestly, by the fact that you have taken it this extra step towards reproductive cloning when society around the world may not be ready for that. What do you say to those naysayers?

BOISSELIER: Well, we have been saying for the last five years that we will do it. Society is more prepared than you would think, and we have been announcing for the last two years that we were ready to do it. I've been saying -- answering questions from the press and telling where we stand each time, and I said that once the baby's born, I will announce it, and this is done.

I do believe society is more prepared than you would -- you would think it is. I've received a lot of e-mails from people or phone calls from people saying, Go and do it right, and we are hoping -- you are our hope.

And I believe that these people who have hopes through the human cloning technology deserve to have -- to benefit from this technique. And I don't see any problem, any harm done to humanity providing a child with their own genes to these parents, and so if you can demonstrate me that there is any problem with that, I think you'll have a hard time.

GUPTA: Well, doctor, you've certainly given us a lot to think about, and we are certainly going to be anxiously awaiting to see some of the proof from these independent scientists next week...

BOISSELIER: It is in eight to nine days, yes.

GUPTA: OK. We'll certainly keep tabs on that. Thank you so much for joining us. You've given people a lot to think about over the next few days, over the next weeks and years probably.

BOISSELIER: Thank you for your invitation.

GUPTA: OK. Thank you very much, doctor -- Fredricka, back to you in Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: And Sanjay, another note that some critics seem to be saying, too, is they question the timing of the Dr. Boisselier's announcement, that perhaps she was trying to beat the announcement of another doctor, an Italian doctor who has been reportedly saying that he, as a fertility doctor, he has a baby boy that is likely to be born in the latter part of January, and that perhaps Boisselier was just trying to beat him to the punch, well before getting this said cloned baby girl verified.

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: Right. There's actually three scientists, including Dr. Boisselier who we just heard from that have talking about, actually, wanting to clone and having the capacity to clone. All of them have said -- and they have been asked that question, Fredricka. They are saying they are not actually competing against one another. The whole process of actually implanting ten embryos and waiting -- and five actually carrying out a pregnancy is all a question of timing as well, but they say there's no competitiveness.

WHITFIELD: And quickly, Sanjay, how would this verification process take place? What would be involved?

GUPTA: What would take place is you would actually -- and they do this already in lots of different situations to actually confirm a genetic match. They do this in paternity testing, they do this in situations of rape or other violent crimes, you measure some DNA, usually from the blood of the baby, and you measure the DNA from the mom, in this case, supposedly the person from which the baby was cloned, and you see if it is a genetic match. If it is, then about 99.9 percent accuracy, then, in fact, this baby would be a clone.

WHITFIELD: All right. And that mother, as far as we know, according to Boisselier, is a 31-year-old woman. And we don't know where this baby...

GUPTA: That is right.

WHITFIELD: ... was born. We do know, she said, by C-section at some undisclosed hospital, correct?

GUPTA: That is right. We have good reason to believe it probably wasn't in the United States. This woman -- this 31-year-old is a United States citizen, we are hearing that. But she was very, very evasive about actually saying where the baby was born. She was also evasive about talking about the other four babies and exactly where they're going to be born. We know they are going to be on various continents around the world, Asia and Europe, as well.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much.

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