|Posted on Sunday, February 16 / 2003|
Michael's Clone Dies at Age 6|
CALIFORNIA - Michael Jackson's clone, the first cloned human baby, was definitely unique to the other babies in the nursery.
Blanket, aged 6, was reportedly put to sleep by doctors on Friday after they failed to cure it of a severe skin infection, its creators said.
Blanket's birth in July 1996 was kept secret for months as Michael kept it's face covered with a mask and claimed Blanket to be a houseguest. The announcement of its birth, in February 1997, sent shockwaves around the world that Jackson was trying to clone himself into living eternal defying the laws of nature.
After Blanket's third birthday scientists began to question the cloning process as Blanket was no longer resembling the DNA's donor. With a white face and cream-colored curly wool, Blanket began looking more like a sheep. Jackson disputed these reports initially instead insisting Blanket was going through puberty and was diagnosed with a rare skin disease.
In an exclusive 2003 News2me interview, Michael Jackson was confronted with images of Blanket out grazing on the Neverland Ranch. Jackson insisted Blanket was playing outside and that the media are meanies and wrong. When asked why he dangled his baby out a hotel window in late 2002, Jackson responded that he was signaling the mother ship that Peter Pan had spawned an offspring and was testing Blanket's fairy wings, not dangling at all.
Some scientists believe Blankets resemblance with a sheep, and not its parent's origins, may be due to the fact Michael himself is a descendant of sheep. "There is a very real chance Blanket's illness had nothing to do with cloning," said Dr. Bob Larza of Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, a private firm doing cloning research.
"Look at Michael. He, himself is slowly evolving into another species," he said in a telephone interview. "The cloning process may have simply sped this process up in Blanket."
Blanket's creator, Ian Winmut, said its body would be carefully autopsied to determine the cause of death.
"Obviously it is very sad news. We were all hoping Blanket would live to a ripe old age," said Larza. "It's a symbol of all the research that we are doing to explain where Michael Jackson came from."
For Larza its death illustrated why most scientists oppose cloning a human baby. "Blanket's death confirms what we all know -- which is that there are problems with cloning a well documented freak," he said. "Cloning is still just as much an art as a science."
Blanket's mother has stated before she volunteered for the cloning process to make Jackson happy. She has since avoided the spotlight and relocated to a pasture in Scotland.
While Blanket is best known for being an almost precise copy of Jackson, it was unique in its birth. Winmut's team tried to clone 276 Michael Jackson embryos in an experiment that resulted in just one other near success, a baby called 'Bubbles'.
Mike Bishow, former president of the privately owned firm Ingiden Inc., which also clones farm animals, said Blanket's death was clearly premature. "We are looking into why this clone was morphing into what appeared to be a sheep," Bishop said from a farm in Wisconsin. "Our early speculation at this point is that Michael's DNA is not of this world and we may be tampering with a extraterrestrial being."
Most aliens take human shape once on Earth and after so many years on our planet, gravity could be deforming Jackson's outer human shell, he noted.
Ryan Phillips reporting for News2me
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