Beijing, April 20 (IANS) Chinese scientists in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have produced the world's first transgenic sheep with a simplified technique of Handmade Cloning.
The project, completed March 26, started more than two years ago. Apart from the general inefficiency of cloning where only a small fraction of the reconstructed embryos develop into healthy offspring, the cloners had to overcome additional difficulties including the special climate and compromised laboratory environment with very basic instruments.
Accordingly, an innovative simplified technique called Handmade Cloning (HMC) was used, with less demand for sophisticated equipment, simplified procedures, lower costs and higher production efficiency.
"The transgenic sheep is named 'Peng Peng' -- after the identical given names of the two cloners, and his birth weight was 5.74 kg," said Du Yutao, director of BGI Ark Biotechnology BAB, one of BGI's affiliates focusing on large-scale production of transgenic and cloned animals. "Peng Peng is developing normally and appears healthy" she added.
In 2009, donor cells were collected from a Chinese Merino sheep, and by genetic manipulation a transgenic cell line was established. After numerous attempts, the HMC system for sheep cloning was successfully established in October 2011. The transfer of the produced embryos has eventually led to the present achievement.
"The most difficult task has been accomplished, the transgenic sheep production platform is established, we are ready for the industrial-scale development," added Du, according to a BGI statement.
Since HMC was introduced in 2001, offspring of several important species, including cattle, pig, goat and water buffalo, have been produced by using this technique. The procedure may contribute to efforts to save endangered species and to produce medicines for human diseases through transgenic animals.
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