What is Clonaid?
Clonaid is the company set up by the Raelian cult to market its cloning techniques, which it claims can reverse ageing and cure diseases such as Alzheimers.
What are the different types of cloning?
There are two types – the first, reproductive cloning, creates babies that are exact genetic copies of their mother or father.
The second type, therapeutic cloning, involves creating “stem cells” by cloning existing cells from human organs. Raelians believe they can use these cells to repair damaged organs and turn back the body’s ageing process.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the “master cells” of the body. They are very young cells that develop into the “building block” cells of every organ in the body. Raelians claim to have cloned cells from the patients they are treating. Scientists accept that, with the right chemical stimulation, stem cells could be turned into heart cells, brain cells or any other type.
How could they be used?
Therapeutic cloning would allow stem cells to be implanted into patients with severe or incurable diseases. For example, stem cells could be inserted into the damaged brains of Parkinson’s sufferers, developing into new brain cells and effectively regrowing the damaged area.
Could they reverse ageing?
Scientists accept that it is theoretically possible. As cells in the body replicate, they get slightly shorter so that, over time, the body weakens.
By using stem cells to maintain their original size, it it should be possible to control and even reverse ageing.
But Raelians have refused to provide details about how they might achieve this, so scientists say it is impossible to judge their techniques.
Is what the Realians are doing legal?
From June this year, cloning of human embryos was allowed in Britain by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for certain medical purposes such as stem-cell research.
But use of stem cells on adult patients – as Raelians claim to have done – is still banned.
In America, stem-cell research is far more tightly controlled, although a recent law has paved the way for more experiments. Many rogue scientists working on cloning technology are believed to be based in China and the Middle East where there are no controls. But little is known of their work.