UC Davis' first cloned calf born, succumbs three days later

A clone is a genetic replica of another living being. Some scientists are studying cloning in hopes that it can be used in agriculture to produce many copies of animals that have valuable qualities -- such as cows whose milk is more nutritious or better for processing dairy foods. Cloning also could be used to genetically engineer cows and sheep that can produce pharmaceuticals in their milk.

It's been estimated that more than 100 cloned calves have been born from fewer than 10 laboratories worldwide. In the United States, calves have been cloned at Texas A&M, University of Wisconsin, University of Tennessee, University of Connecticut and at several private companies.

The current technology used to produce clones in the laboratory is called nuclear transfer because it is based on moving the nucleus of one cell into another cell. The nucleus -- the center part of the cell that contains its DNA -- is withdrawn from an egg cell of one animal. Then a cell is taken from the skin or other tissue of a donor animal of the same species and placed next to the "empty" egg.

An electrical charge is then applied, causing the two cells to fuse together. This transfers all of the genetic information that controls cellular development from the nucleus of the donor cell to the fused egg and triggers cell division to begin. The fused egg is placed in a lab dish with the appropriate nutrients. Eventually, the resulting embryo -- which is a genetic copy of the animal that donated the nucleus -- is transplanted into a surrogate mother.

The cloning research will continue at UC Davis with a half-dozen other cows now in the very early stages of pregnancy with cloned embryos. Calves resulting from those pregnancies would be born in early spring.


Contact: Patricia Bailey
University of California - Davis

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