Chinese Scientists Create Sheep With New Cloning Method
Chinese scientists from BGI Shenzhen (BGI) are claiming they have produced the world’s first transgenic sheep using a technique known as “handmade cloning.”
The sheep, named ‘Peng Peng’, was born at 12:16 p.m. on March 26, 2012 in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.
Peng Peng was created using donor cells from a Chinese Merino sheep, and the researchers said that by genetic manipulation, they were able to establish a cell line.
Handmade Cloning (HMC) requires less demand for sophisticated equipment, and is lower in cost, with a higher production efficiency, according to a recent statement.
Dr. Yutao Du, Director of BGI Ark Biotechnology said that Peng Peng is developing normally and appears healthy.
BGI, the world’s largest genomics organization, said that genetic modification may result in improved meat quality by increasing the unsaturated fatty acid content.
The researchers said they were able to successfully transfer the gene associated with unsaturated fat, w-3PUFA, to Peng Peng.
According to the BGI statement, the gene serves as an essential fatty acid for humans, and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, supporting the normal development of the brain, eye and neurons.
“The birth of Peng Peng means that people could absorb ω-3PUFAs by drinking milk or eating meat in the future.” Du said. “The most difficult task has been accomplished, the transgenic sheep production platform is established, we are ready for the industrial-scale development.”
HMC was first introduced as a cloning method back in 2001, and since then offspring of several species of cattle, pig, goat and water buffalo have been produced, BGI said.
This cloning method may contribute to efforts to save endangered species and produce medicines for human diseases through transgenic animals.
BGI made another cloning achievement last year with a strong willed pig that became famous after a 2008 Chinese earthquake.
Zhu Jiangqiang, or “strong-willed pig”, survived over a month buried under rubble after the 2008 earthquake rocked China’s Sichuan province.
The pig was cloned, producing 6 piglets identical to the animal that became famous throughout China.
“With each new species cloned, we learn more about the possible contribution of HMC to improve the health of animals and humans.” Du said. “I expect more breakthroughs on transgenic and cloned animal research in the foreseeable future.”