Scientists have even experimented with cloning human embryos at a very early stage. The experiment was made at George Washington University, School of Medicine, Washington, DC, by a team of researchers. After the experiment was publicized, Pope John Paul II, on 20 November 1993, reacted strongly by calling for the legal recognition of the human embryo to protect it from analysis or experimentation. "The embryo has to be recognized as a being subject to the laws of nations, otherwise we are endangering humanity," he said (AFP–Jiji). Laws, then, are necessary to place limits upon what scientists are permitted to do with human embryos. Dr. Lejeune, who always opposed such experimentation with early human beings, explained the experiment as follows:
They took 17 living, human embryos, varying in development from two to eight cells, and created 48 distinct, living human embryos from them. The researchers' first step was to chemically remove each embryo's "zona pellucida," a hard, shell–like covering which nourishes and protects the developing baby. Next, the researchers separated each embryo into individual cells, called blastocytes.
The 48 resulting blastocytes were then coated with a synthetic substance made to mimic the zona pellucida and placed in a solution conducive to embryonic development. The blastocytes did, in fact, begin to divide and grow, developing into distinct human embryos, each genetically identical to the original embryo from which it was taken.
The new embryos developed to stages varying from two to thirty two cells each. Researchers planned to discard the embryos after seven days, but all died on their own within six days (reported in National Right to Life News, 5 November 1993).
In a subsequent article, "L'Embryon Deshumanise" published in Tom Pouce March–April 1994, Dr. Lejeune provides further information about the Washington experiment. Namely, that when a cell was isolated from the fertilized ovum at the 8 cell stage, it divided itself only three times to reach 2, then 4, then 8 cells, and then did not proliferate after that. If isolated at the 4 cell stage, it divided itself only four times, to reach 2, then 4, then 8, then 16 cells, when it stopped; when isolated at the 2 cell stage, it divided itself five times, to reach 2, then 4, then, 8 then 16, then 32 cells, when division ceased. He stated that human cloning is impossible because, after the first division, the resulting cells are no longer pleni–potent.
In this article Dr. Lejeune suggests that twinning might possibly occur at the 32 cell stage, when the three somatic cells of the 16 cell stage are six and can therefore be divided into two sets of three. The twinning would have been written into the genes at the time of conception, and would occur at the indicated sequential division.
A colleague of Dr. Lejeune in the Paris Institut de Progenese, Dr. Marie Peeters, explains that male and female genes associate as a complementary team to flesh out the new human body:
Genetical as well as experimental embryology methods have uncovered a very important feature of embryonic development in humans. It has been shown that female and male genomic complements are differently imprinted in such a way that a contribution from both a maternal and a paternal genome are absolutely necessary for the embryo to complete its normal development. Differential genomic imprinting seems to impose some new and essential information to the one already contained in the genomic sequences (Moscow HLI Conference, 12 May 1994, pp. 4–5).
After further explanation, Dr. Peeters concludes that "The human genome is activated by the two cell stage. This makes true human cloning impossible" (Ibid., p. 6). We are logical, I believe, to conclude that if cloning is impossible at the two cell stage because the genetic sequences cannot be turned back to zero to initiate a second body, but continue to specialize for the building of one body, then twinning by natural cleavage is also not possible after the first cell division, unless this has been pre–written into the initial cell.
Science gives us no reason to believe that our human lives began in a colony of cells some days, weeks, or months after conception. On the contrary, it indicates that the life which is there later, is genetically and organizationally the same as the life which continued to develop from that beginning, from the first cell. The response of Prof. J. Francois Mattei (Le Monde, 12 October 1993) to a question by a journalist, who asked whether he maintained that an embryo was equivalent to a child, sums it up economically and neatly:
Just as the fertilized egg before it, and after it the foetus, the newborn baby, the child, the adolescent, the adult, and the elderly person, the embryo is none other than the morphological expression of a single and identical life (quoted by Bishop Elio Sgreccia, L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 10 November 1993).
God creates our souls by direct and immediate action, out of nothing; He creates our souls — our lives — not beforehand in heaven, but in the gametes provided by our parents. Exercising almighty power He declares: "Let us make THIS man in our image, in our likeness" (cf. Gen 1:26). What God has created out of nothing, let no man dare to injure or kill. And should it be true that His first actions in human gametes are preparatory to a later creative action, let no mere man interfere with His plans. What He has decided to create as a man, is already a man as far as we are concerned.