Australians mass-produce embryo clones. [Part 1]
LONDON (Reuter News - 03:30 PM ET 03/12/97) - Australian researchers have created more than 400 cattle clones from embryos and say it is a first step toward mass-producing identical farm animals, New Scientist magazine reported Thursday. They did not use the technique used to create the controversial Dolly from an adult sheep in Scotland, but slightly older technology involving the duplication of embryos. But Alan Trounson of Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, told the magazine they might be able to use the method of the Scottish developers of Dolly to clone hundreds of genetically identical adult animals. ``We are developing a production process for genetically identical embryos,'' Bernie Harford of Genetics Australia, which is working with Trounson's group, said. The researchers produce calf embryos using standard test-tube technology and let them grow a bit into a ball of cells known as a blastocyst. They then separate cells out and fuse them with eggs that have had their nucleus removed to create new embryos. These embryos are grown and separated again and again to create a whole line of little clones -- 470 at last count. ``We don't know of any other group being able to produce that many healthy cloned embryos,'' Harford told New Scientist. None of the Australian embryonic clones has been implanted into a cow and successfully grown into a fetus, let alone a calf. The Dolly researchers have created six sheep clones using this method -- starting with Megan and Moran, born a year ago. Clone researchers say the technology can benefit medicine and animal science. The Scottish researchers want to use their clones to create genetically engineered animals for use in producing medicine. The Australian researchers say they want to use their technology to create a reliable herd of prize cattle. Currently farmers will breed from one prize bull over and over again, but offspring vary in quality depending on the mothers. Cloning would allow for guaranteed elite livestock.
[Follow up story - Part 2]
Australian scientist sees commercial cattle clone
By Michael Byrnes SYDNEY, March 14 (Reuter) -
Australian researchers who have achieved the first large-scale cloning of cattle embryos said on Friday they hoped to launch commercial cloning within three or four years. Their success was announced at a time of worldwide debate on the ethics of cloning -- especially the idea of human cloning. The debate was provoked by news last month that scientists in Scotland had produced a sheep clone called Dolly. But researcher Bernie Harford said the cloning process refined by a team in Melbourne was created solely for use in agriculture. ``Our commercial focus is to produce genetically identical embryos in large numbers, at low cost,'' Harford, chief executive of the Genetics Australia co-operative, told Reuters. ``Our hope would be that we would move into pilot commercial processes in the next three or four years.'' Britain's New Scientist magazine reported on Thursday that Harford and a team at Melbourne's Monash University led by Alan Trounson had managed to create more than 400 identical embryos from a single cattle embryo. In a telephone interview, Harford would not comment on the possibility of using cloning techniques on humans. ``Our interest is purely agricultural applications,'' he said. Harford has worked for five years with Monash University's Institute of Reproduction and Development to create a large number of cloned embryos. The researchers produce calf embryos using standard test-tube technology and let them grow into a ball of cells known as a blastocyst. They then separate cells out and fuse them with eggs that have had their nucleus removed to create new embryos, which are grown and separated again and again. At the last count, the team had managed to produce a line of 470 cloned embryos, although none has been implanted into a cow and allowed to grow. Harford said he considered the Melbourne success to be less spectacular than the work in Scotland which produced Dolly from the cell of an adult sheep. He said the Melbourne cloning was ``steady and very encouraging rather than spectacular.'' The next step would be to produce large numbers of embryos consistently and to produce healthy cows from the embryos. Genetics Australia's immediate aim was to produce 50 to 60 cattle with the same genetics and test them in the field. The best performers would be chosen for further reproduction. Annual production of cloned animals would then depend on the cost of producing embryos, which was not yet known. ``Essentially, we're competing with elite semen which sells for something less than A$30 (US$24) a straw,'' he said. While the present cost of cloning embryos was expensive, it was feasible to produce large numbers of embryos quite cheaply. ``To make it cost-effective, we'd need to produce in large numbers,'' Harford said.
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