August 25, 2011

Embryologist Plans To Clone Rare Scottish Wildcats


Embryologist Dr. Bill Ritchie has started to work on a new technique to clone rare Scottish wildcats, reports BBC News.

Ritchie, who became famous for his involvement in cloning Dolly the sheep 15 years ago, said the project could help protect the species which is thought to have just 400 cats left in the wild.

His research has received funding from Genecom, the commercial arm of the Moredun Research Institute and the Institute for Animal Health.

Ritchie said in a statement: "Several cat species have been cloned using the domestic cat, as well as the wolf using dog eggs.

"It is very difficult to find pure wildcats due to their crossing with domestic animals, but modern scientific techniques are able to select animals which are pure bred.

"Cells collected from these animals by taking a small piece of skin would be cultured to supply cells for the cloning process."

He said eggs from domestic cats could be used as the starting material for the cloning process. 

Ritchie said a project in the Cairngorms where cats are spayed to prevent inter-breeding with wildcats could provide a "convenient source of eggs."

Bosses at the RZSS's Highland Wildlife Park confirmed a plan to clone wildcats in August last year.

Talks have been held with the Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh.

The park said a house cat-wildcat hybrid could be used to give birth to "pure wildcat kittens."

The park estimated that 150 breeding pairs of wildcats survived in parts of the Highlands.

The wild population has been dwindling due to disease, loss of habitat and inter-breeding with domestic cats.


Image Caption: European Wildcat in the Wisentgehege Springe game park, near Springe, Hanover, Germany. Credit: Michael Gäbler/Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0)  


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