Scientists at Texas A&M University have become the first to clone animals from three different species--two cows, a goat, and now a litter of cloned pigs. They were all on display at the school, where work has also begun on duplicating a horse, a dog, and a cat.
Dr. Jorge Piedrahita led the team that cloned the piglets. He spoke with the Early Show from College Station, Texas. He is a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M. He is also the associate director of the Center for Animal Biotechnology and Genomics at Texas A&M.
Researchers at the school admit that they are still struggling with their much-vaunted "Missyplicity Project"--a privately funded effort to produce a cloned dog that would be a replica of the donor's pet Collie. But they are hopeful that the cloning of pigs will provide important benefits for humans, since pig tissue and organs have been targeted as potentially compatible with the human body.
Piedrahita has noted that although the pigs were all cloned from the same genes, and born to the same surrogate mother, they differ in size, weight, and behavior. This, scientists hope, is a significant clue to the solution of the age-old problem of nature versus nurture.
The clones, created in the laboratory to be genetic replicas of other animals, were unveiled yesterday at the Large Animal Clinic on campus. They included five cloned piglets, born 3 weeks ago; a 5-month-old goat named Megan, and a couple of bulls. One bull was cloned [in the hope of recreating] disease resistance, and the other [came] from the genes of an aged bull.
These are not the first cloned pigs. A Virginia firm reported a litter in April. But the pig research is especially promising, because pigs could become human tissue and organ donors.
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