A controversial religious sect is tonight expected to tell an Edinburgh audience that it attempting to produce the first Scottish cloned baby.
Dr Brigitte Boisellier, a French scientist at the heart of Clonaid, a company which claims it has produced cloned humans, was tonight due to join Raelian sect leader Rael to address a conference at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.
Clonaid, which claims to be behind 13 cloned babies worldwide, was expected to outline how they aim to produce a cloned baby in Dundee to help a couple who lost their daughter in an accident.
The pair were said to be announcing “pioneering technology” which they claim can map brain patterns on a computer and which will rid the world of death within 30 years.
The outlandish claims are the latest controversial pronouncements to have been made since the groups hit the headlines in 2002, when they announced they had produced the world’s first cloned baby in Florida.
Dr Boisellier claims the new technology, which they have called Stemaid, will allow humans to have their brains copied onto a computer and re-programmed into another brain.
The sect has offered to help solicitor Alan Masterton and his wife Louise, from Monifieth, near Dundee, who are in a court battle to be allowed to choose the gender of their child.
The couple, who lost their only daughter in a bonfire accident in 1999, already have four sons and want to have a “designer” baby girl.
Present laws, however, prevent “gender selection” except for medical reasons.
Dr Boisellier said: “I think this generation need never die if they don’t want to.
“We will have to choose if we want to live a second life, or have children of our own.
“It may seem far-fetched at the moment but in the future it will be possible.”
She claimed the technology would take 20 or 30 years to develop.
Dr Boisellier said Edinburgh’s cloning history had brought her group to the city. “We were invited here by the Raelian movement.
“Edinburgh and Scotland have great significance for us, with Dolly the Sheep being born here. Somehow, Edinburgh has changed my life quite a lot,” she said.
Scientists dismissed the groups’ claims to have produced a cloned human, calling for hard evidence.
Leading fertility expert Sir Robert Winston said he believed Ms Boisellier’s cloned baby claims were “a lot of hot air”. He added: “It’s about as realistic as me saying I’ve built a bridge across the Channel that no one’s seen and expect to be believed just because I’m a scientist.
“Nearly all scientists will regard Clonaid’s claims as ludicrous.”
The Raelians, who claim to have 55,000 followers worldwide, believe that life on Earth was established by extra-terrestrials who arrived in flying saucers 25,000 years ago, and that humans themselves were created by cloning.
The movement’s founder Rael – the former French journalist Claude Vorilhon – lives in Canada. He has described himself as a prophet and claims that cloning will enable humanity to “attain eternal life”.
Cloning produces a new individual using only one person’s DNA. Human cloning for reproductive purposes is banned in several countries.
There is no specific law against it in the United States, but the Food and Drug Administration says it must approve any human experiments in the country.
The conference, which is open to the public, will take place at the Sheraton Hotel, at 7pm.