WASHINGTON - Reacting to the "startling" news that scientists in Scotland have successfully cloned an animal, President Clinton asked a bioethics advisory commission on Monday to review the implications for human beings.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said the commission, which Clinton appointed, was asked to report back in 90 days.
The development, in which scientists cloned an adult mammal for the first time, produced a lamb named Dolly and the disturbing implication that the cloning of a human being might eventually be possible.
McCurry said Clinton asked the commission to carefully review "the ethical and legal issues associated with this development in technology."
He called it "startling."
Clinton acted earlier in his administration to deny federal funding for human embryo research financed by federal dollars, McCurry said.
He said the commission will examine "whether private research ought to be sensitive to these issues" and whether there are policy ramifications for the federal government to address.
The commission is not being asked to make specific conclusions or recommendations, McCurry said, adding: "The president wants a good, thorough, accurate review."
The panel had already been looking at research in animal husbandry, biogenetic research and the general area of biotechnology, McCurry said.
The lamb in Scotland was cloned from a 6-year-old ewe, using tissue taken from the ewe's udder. Scientists hadn't thought a whole mammal could be regenerated from mature body cells that were specialized for something other than reproduction.
While the research suggests that cloning humans might some day be possible, gene experts said it would be unethical to try.