Clone or hoax? The scientific method to verify whether the Raelien sect, as it claims, really has managed to produce a baby clone named "Eve," is nothing more than a simple DNA test.
DNA samples to determine if Eve is a clone of her mother were taken on Tuesday, after the baby's return to her parents' home at an unspecified location, said Brigitte Boisselier, president of Clonaid, the human cloning company founded by the Raeliens.
Boisselier on Friday made the startling announcement that Eve had been born on December 26. If the claims are true, Eve will be a carbon copy of her mother, with an age difference of 31 years.
Boisselier authorized ABC television science editor Michael Guillen and a team of experts to test whether Eve really was cloned from the skin cells of her mother.
Such tests are now standard in paternity lawsuits and in police investigations to identify suspects from samples of DNA taken at crime scenes.
In Eve's case, the procedure is just as simple.
Blood samples taken from the mucus membranes inside the mouth of mother and child are enough to make a genetic profile of both.
"The nuclear DNA of the somatic cell donor and baby should match" in order to be absolutely certain that cloning was performed, said William Muir, genetics professor at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Discovered in 1953, DNA - Deoxyribonucleic Acid - forms the basic material in the chromosomes of the cell nucleus, and contains the genetic code transmitting a person's hereditary pattern.
The genetic code that dictates the production of proteins is virtually identical in everyone. However, around 0.1 per cent of the three billion base pairs, called introns, are apparently arranged at random, making each individual unique.
Sequence identification can then be performed by different technologies, the two most common being the RFLP test, used to identify paternity links, and the PCR test, mainly used in criminal cases.
The Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) test has been used internationally since 1985. A large DNA sample is required for this test, but its accuracy is a very high 99.8 per cent.
The most commonly used technology is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. Marginally less accurate than the RFLP test, the PCR test is still very reliable, and has proved useful in criminology, requiring only tiny quantities of DNA even if in very poor condition.
A mere one to five millilitres of blood is needed for the tests, which do not require a minimum age to be carried out. In an unborn child, the test can be performed using amniotic liquid instead of blood.
A DNA test costs $1,000 more or less depending on the laboratory and the protocol followed.
Dr Guillen was not available to say which DNA testing method was being used or to identify the experts who were to administer it.