The first calf cloned and delivered at the University of California, Davis, died Saturday, just three days after its birth. Results of the necropsy or animal autopsy, which should pinpoint the cause of death, are pending.
"We're saddened and disappointed by the death of the calf, " said animal science professor Gary Anderson, an authority on embryonic development in mammals and lead researcher on the cloning study. "And yet the birth itself is a milestone," said Anderson. "We're hopeful that the continued research will help us improve the cloning technique so that it can be useful in animal agriculture, ultimately for producing more healthful meat and milk products."
The brown and white Hereford calf was delivered by Caesarean section Aug. 15 at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. It was part of a research project conducted by Anderson and doctoral candidate Cynthia Batchelder. Their ongoing research is aimed at determining if the type of cell used in the cloning procedure affects cloning success.
The UC Davis calf was cloned from a skin cell taken from the ear of a 15-year-old reddish brown Hereford cow. The calf was carried by a white-faced black surrogate mother, which is a cross between a Hereford and an Angus, both beef breeds.
"I'm awed that we could produce a live calf from an adult skin cell, yet humbled by the knowledge that there were things wrong with her that the best and most advanced medical care available could not overcome," said Batchelder. "On one hand, we in the scientific community have learned so much and on the other hand there is still so much we have yet to understand."
Like many cloned calves and sheep, the UC Davis calf was larger than typical Hereford calves. Although well-proportioned, it weighed roughly 150 pounds compared with the 75-80 pounds usually seen in calves of this breed. As expected, the cloned calf had the same coloring and markings as the Hereford cow from which she was cloned.
Contact: Patricia Bailey
University of California - Davis