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However, the feat was a first in that no one had previously managed to create a clone of an extinct species. The scientists, led by Jose Folch of the University of Zaragoza in northern Spain, wanted to see if they could in some way preserve the genetic material of the bucardo. They had taken skin cells from the ear of the last bucardo known to have lived, a female they called Celia. The sampling took place in and Celia was subsequently released. However, in January she was found dead next to a fallen tree with her skull crushed.
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Folch and his colleagues had carefully stored Celia's skin cells in liquid nitrogen at about minus C. Over several years, they undertook a series of cloning experiments involving the transfer of the cell nuclei containing the bucardo's DNA into a batch of "empty" egg cells from domestic goats, a close relative, which had their own nuclear DNA removed. This is the standard way of producing a clone using the "cell nuclear transfer" technique that led to the creation of Dolly the sheep. The one big difference, however, is that in this case the resulting embryos were "hybrids" of goat eggs and bucardo skin cells, and instead of transferring the embryos back into a female bucardo — there were none available — the scientists used the domestic goat as surrogate mothers.
The cloning process is still very inefficient, even when done between members of the same species. When, in , Dolly was created from the udder cell of a female sheep, it took attempts to produce just one live, healthy offspring — Dolly. This bucardo experiment was even more inefficient, which is to be expected given that it involves fusing cells from different species.
An earlier attempt to clone the bucardo ended in failure in , with just two pregnancies from dozens of attempted embryo transfers. Both pregnancies did not get beyond the two-month stage. In the latest attempt, the scientists had created ibex-goat hybrid cloned embryos. Of these, only 57 were deemed suitable for transfer into surrogate goat mothers. And of the seven pregnancies, just one gave birth to a live offspring.
It is well established that cloned animals often suffer from developmental problems. Very often these problems prevent the pregnancy from continuing normally, and sometimes the cloned offspring that do get born suffer health problems that either kill them in the womb or lead to later ailments in life. This is one of the reasons why some biologists are very concerned about the use of cloning to preserve endangered animals.
Largest animal cloning factory can save species, says Chinese founder | World news | The Guardian
There is a very new method being developed called induced pluripotent stem iPS cells. As the name implies, it is a way of creating embryonic-like cells from ordinary skin cells by tinkering with a handful of genes. But scientists have demonstrated that the embryonic stem cells created by the iPS method can also develop fully in the womb just like ordinary embryos and result in live births. The aim eventually is to refine the technique so that, for instance, the skin cells of an endangered animal are genetically manipulated in the laboratory to create iPS cells that can then be made into cloned embryo for transfer into the womb of a surrogate mother.
A number of groups are looking into this as a possible alternative to Dolly-like cloning for endangered animals. There is again some evidence that the offspring created by the iPS technique may not be entirely normal. Cloned mice produced by the iPS method, for instance, do not seem to live as long as ordinary mice.
Largest animal cloning factory can save species, says Chinese founder
This would have to be taken into account before it is used on bigger animals that are rare or endangered. They believe that cloning offers another way of preserving the unique genetic identify of a rare species in the body of living animals that could be used for breeding purposes. Some endangered animals are so rare and so difficult to breed in captivity that cloning offers a viable alternative route to continuing the genetic line, especially if surrogate mothers of a closely-related, non-threatened species are used.
There are at least half a dozen serious projects to investigate the possible use of cloning to preserve some of the world's most threatened species. The animals being considered range from the giant panda and the Sumatran tiger, to the African bongo antelope and the pygmy hippo. There have already been clones of endangered animals. The most famous was Noah, a baby gaur, a wild ox-like bovine from south-east Asia, which was cloned using the eggs and surrogate wombs of domestic cows. Unfortunately, Noah died within the first 48 hours of being born due to an intestinal infection that may have been made worse by the fact that he was a hybrid clone of a gaur and a cow.
More recently, scientists have had more success with the European mouflon, a rare breed of sheep found in Sardinia, Corsica and Cyprus, which was cloned in In , a separate team of scientists cloned another type of wild cattle called a banteng, using cow eggs and surrogate mother cows.
Almost certainly not. The biggest threats to wild animals today are habitat loss, human encroachment, poaching, pollution and climate change. Almost everyone involved in the conservation of species would put tackling these problems far higher up the agenda than cloning. Many experts go further and say that cloning is a harmful distraction from the main job of the preservation of the wilderness, which is being lost at an astonishing rate, along with the animals and plants that live there.
However, there is a case that under certain circumstances, and with certain species, cloning could be a useful tool for preserving the genetic material of an endangered species on the verge of extinction. It could be especially useful for animals whose genetic diversity is already limited or dwindling. But no one who knows about threatened species believes it is the panacea that could curb the mass extinction of animals and plants currently taking place on the Earth.
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Jeremy Corbyn. Robert Fisk. Mark Steel. Janet Street-Porter. John Rentoul. Chuka Ummuna. Shappi Khorsandi. Unlike embryonic cells, which are genetically flexible enough to become a variety of different tissues, a tadpole's cells are "differentiated"—that is, the patterns of genes they express have changed to fit the profile of a specific cell type: a skin, eye or heart cell, for example.
Gurdon demonstrated that, when transplanted into an egg, nuclear DNA from a mature cell reverts to the more versatile state characteristic of DNA in an embryo's cells. This breakthrough encouraged scientists to try cloning far larger animals using DNA from adult cells. In researchers in Scotland attempted to clone a female Finn-Dorset sheep. They injected nuclei extracted from her udder cells into nearly empty eggs derived from Scottish blackfaces, a different sheep breed.
Out of those prepared eggs, the scientists managed to create more than 30 embryos. Only five of those embryos developed into lambs after being implanted in surrogate Scottish blackfaces. And only one of those lambs survived into adulthood. The researchers named her Dolly. Since then some biologists have repeatedly suggested that cloning could help save endangered species, especially in dire situations in which only a few dozen or a handful of animals remain.
The smaller, more homogenous and more inbred a population, the more susceptible it is to a single harmful genetic mutation or disease. Clones could theoretically increase the genetic diversity of an endangered population if researchers have access to preserved DNA from many different individuals. At the very least, clones could stabilize a shrinking population. And, some researchers argue, a genetically homogenous but stable population would be better than extinction; some highly inbred groups of wild animals, such as Chillingham cattle in England, have survived just fine for hundreds of years.
One species that might benefit from cloning is the northern white rhinoceros, which is native to Africa. In the global northern white rhino population was more than 2, strong, but poaching has reduced their numbers to as few as 11 today. By last count, three live in zoos—two in San Diego and one in the Czech Republic—four live in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and as few as four individuals may still live in the wild based on unconfirmed reports , but they have not been spotted in several years.
Most of the captive animals are uninterested in mating or infertile, although two rhinos mated in the summer of Right now, though, cloning is unlikely to help the white rhino or any other threatened species. To date, the story of cloning endangered animals is one of a few high-profile successes and many, many failures. Since the early s, using the same technique that produced Dolly, researchers have cloned several endangered and even extinct mammals, including a mouflon sheep and a bovine known as a gaur in ; a kind of wild cattle called a banteng in ; a wild goat known as the Pyrenean ibex in ; and wild coyotes in In each case many more clones died before birth than survived; in most cases none of the clones survived into adulthood.
Mismatched All those attempted clones of endangered or extinct animals died in different ways for different reasons, but they all shared one fundamental problem—they were not exact replicas of their counterparts.
In most cases, researchers have combined DNA from the threatened species with eggs from a related domestic species. Each surrogate mother is often implanted with dozens of hybrid embryos in order to achieve at least a few pregnancies, a strategy that requires extracting hundreds of eggs. Because the reproductive physiology of most endangered animals is so poorly understood, researchers are often unsure when the animals ovulate and how best to acquire their eggs. In some cases legal protections prevent scientists from harvesting eggs from threatened species. For all these reasons, they turn to more familiar domestic species instead.
Injecting the DNA of one species into the egg of another species—even a closely related one—creates an unusual hybrid embryo that often fails to develop properly in the womb of a surrogate mother. This mismatch becomes problematic as the embryo develops. Nuclear DNA and mtDNA work together; they both contain genetic recipes for proteins with which cells extract energy from food. In a hybrid embryo these proteins do not always fit together properly, which leaves cells starved for energy.
Complicating matters further, the surrogate mother often rejects the hybrid embryo because she recognizes some of the embryo's tissues, particularly the placenta, as foreign.