Raelian Cult Claims First Human Embryo Clone

When Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Massachusetts announced last Sunday that it had successfully cloned a human embryo that grew to 6 cells before stopping, it caused no small amount of surprise and uproar around the world because of the implications and possibilities that such an accomplishment opened up. There was at least one person who wasn't surprised at all, though. It's old news to him-he claims that his researchers did the same thing a long time ago.

Claude Vorilhon is a 54-year-old former sports writer now known as Rael, who founded a religious movement based on the premise that visiting extra-terrestrials genetically created life on earth. He welcomed the lab's success but states that his own team of scientists has far surpassed that achievement. His own company openly supports Clonaid, a company headed by cult member Brigitte Boisselier, a 44-year-old French biochemist determined to produced the world's first cloned baby.

Clonaid was forced to abandon its U.S. laboratory after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned in March that it would not allow experiments on cloning humans. But Rael is adamant that their research continues. He states that when they were forced to move, they set up a laboratory in another country where their research is not prohibited and continued on, with progress still being made. Don't expect any public announcements about their work, though. If he has his way, the first announcement the public will hear about their accomplishments will be to announce the birth of the baby.

They have high standards set for the resulting child, stating that it must be "in a health that is recognized as perfect" and have no handicaps or genetic abnormalities. That's important, because ultimately they have a much higher goal in mind than even creating a baby-they want to clone fully grown individuals in a sort of ''accelerated-growth process'' where memories and personality could be ``downloaded'' to the clone from the donor. Once they achieve that, he says, they are well on their way to attaining their ultimate goal of living eternally by going through several different bodies.

They also support the more mainstream goal of being able to use cloned embryos to harvest vital stem cells, which could be used to combat a range of diseases including cancer.