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First Cloned Cat Makes Debut

Thursday, 14 February 2002 12:00 AM

Some believe it may pave the way for the cloning of pets, according to a paper to be published in the Feb. 21 issue of the journal Nature. The journal released the findings early.

"The most important thing to take away from this research is that cloning, especially for a pet, is reproduction, not resurrection," Dr. Mark Westhusin, of Texas A&M colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture and Life Sciences, told United Press International. "Notice the coat color of the kitten is different, and while the DNA may be the same, it is not the same animal."

The kitten and its genetic mother are female calico domestic shorthair cats, and while the mother's coat contains orange, the kitten's is black and white.

"Coat color of cats is only partly determined by DNA, as the embryo develops, it moves around and this and other gestational factors determine the coat as the kitten develops," David Prentice, a professor for the life sciences program at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind., told UPI. "How many kittens in a litter would be a gestational factor."

The first cloned cat was born Dec. 22 to Allie, her surrogate mother, a tabby, from a donor mother named Rainbow. The announcement of the successful cat cloning was delayed until the animal had completed its shot series and its immune system was fully developed, according to the Texas researchers. Sheep, mice, cattle, goats and pigs have all been successfully cloned, Westhusin said.

"The kitten is developing normally for a kitten its age and appears healthy," Westhusin said. "A DNA analysis confirmed CC is a clone, i.e., a genetic copy of the donor."

The Texas researchers isolated adult fibroblast cells from an adult male cat and froze the genetic material. They then thawed it, fused it with cat ova that had matured in vitro which had metaphase chromosomes removed, and these cloned embryos were then transferred to female cats. Previously, animal cloning experiments have concentrated on livestock or laboratory animals genetically modified to make them potentially suitable for organ transplants or to test pharmaceuticals.

"In the Texas study, a total 188 nuclei were transferred, 87 cloned embryos were formed and transferred to eight female cats resulting in one live birth and one failed pregnancy," Prentice said. "These numbers are still abysmal. It would take 60,000-70,000 tries for a human embryo taking millions of eggs."

According to the Westhusin, "It remains to be seen whether cloning efficiency is reproducible in cats."

The researched is supported by financier John Sperling, who has said he wants to charge wealthy pet owners to clone their pets.

"Some wealthy people may want to get Fluffy back, but it's important to remember that a cloned cat is more of a twin or litter-mate born at a later time," Prentice said. "What you get is the same genetic material but the not the same gestation, experiences and behaviors that made Fluffy the animal it was. We are so much more than just genes."

Nigel Cameron, with Council for Biotechnology Policy in Washington, disagreed. In animals, nature is more important than nurture because a cat's experiences and behaviors are much more limited and similar than in a human, he said.

"Dolly was a wake-up call, and this cat is the second wake-up call that cloning children will soon follow, and if it does it will make people into things," Cameron said. "The technology of cloning is growing geometrically, so I think we'll see human cloning attempts soon unless public policy steps in."

Westhusin said the question of nature or nurture still has not been answered.

"Cloning will allow us to answer the question of nature versus nurture because we will be able to put identical genetic material in different environments," he said.

In the first direct study of the lifespan of cloned mice, published earlier this week in the journal Nature Genetics, researchers suggested cloned animals may die young.

In the Japanese study, the first cloned mouse died after only 311 days and in 800 days 10, or 83 percent, of the cloned mice were dead.

"It is very probable that, at least for some populations of clones, some unpredictable defects will appear in the long run," said Atsuo Ogura of National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo. "Some effects of cloning are not apparent in the days, weeks or even years after birth.

Last month, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, Dolly the sheep, was reported to have prematurely developed arthritis. Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Some believe it may pave the way for the cloning of pets, according to a paper to be published in the Feb. 21 issue of the journal Nature. The journal released the findings early. The most important thing to take away from this research is that cloning, especially for a...
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2002-00-14
Thursday, 14 February 2002 12:00 AM
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