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Antaletriangle 03-05-2009 11:40 AM

Italian doctor claims he cloned three babies

An Italian doctor known for helping post-menopausal women to have children has claimed to have cloned three babies who are now living in eastern Europe.

Last Updated: 10:56PM GMT 03 Mar 2009

"I helped give birth to three children with the human cloning technique," Severino Antinori, a gynaecologist, told Oggi weekly in an interview which will appear on Wednesday.

"It involved two boys and a girl who are nine years old today. They were born healthy and they are in excellent health now."

Mr Antinori did not provide proof of his claims, but said cells from the three fathers, all of whom were sterile, allowed the cloning to be carried out.

The women's eggs were impregnated in a laboratory through a method called "nuclear transfer," he said.

Mr Antinori, who became famous after he helped a 63-year-old woman to have a child in 1994, declined to give further details, saying: "Respect for the families' privacy does not allow me to go further."

He added that the method used was "an improvement" over the technique used to clone Dolly the sheep in 1996.

Reminded by the journalist that such cloning is prohibited in Italy, which is predominantly Catholic, the doctor said he preferred to "speak of innovative therapies" or "genetic recoding" rather than cloning.

Two weeks ago, Mr Antinori sparked controversy by announcing that he would artificially impregnate a woman whose husband is in an irreversible coma following a brain tumour.

It would be the first procedure of its kind in Italy if successful.

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