More MS news articles for August 2002

Scientists Develop Cheap And Easy Cloning Method

Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Reuters Health
LONDON (Reuters)

Scientists have developed a cheap and easy cloning method to let technicians create cloned embryos with gear that could fit in a trailer and costs only a few thousand dollars, New Scientist magazine reported on Wednesday.

"It's so much simpler than anything we are doing today, it's dramatic," the British science magazine quoted Michael Bishop, ex-president of US cattle-cloning company Infigen as saying. "It's a huge step toward roboticizing the whole process."

Cloning advocates say it can be used by farmers to preserve the lines of prized livestock, and by protection groups to save endangered species. But opponents worry that cheaper and easier cloning could hasten the day when humans try to clone themselves.

To make a cloned embryo, technicians need an egg cell with no nucleus--the part that includes genetic material--so that they can add the genetic material from the animal they intend to clone.

Under the old system, technicians needed to guide an expensive microscopic needle into the egg cell to suck out the nucleus, a time-consuming process requiring expensive equipment and training.

In the new technique, developed by scientist Gabor Vajta of the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, they just slice eggs cells in half.

The halves that include the nucleus can be discarded. Two separate nucleus-free halves are fused together -- along with the genetic material to be cloned -- to make the equivalent of a whole cloned egg.

A healthy looking calf has already been born in Australia using the new technique, and another is expected this week, New Scientist reported.

It said a team from the Endangered Wildlife Trust in Johannesburg had already tried out the equipment under field conditions, using a Bunsen burner on a laboratory bench to make a sterile working environment.

The most expensive piece of equipment they used was a $3,500 electrofusion machine, which zaps the cells to make them fuse into a single cell.

The Johannesburg team used the equipment to clone embryos of endangered darted buffalo, black impala and giant eland with egg cells from cows.

"One can set up a lab very cheaply. You can imagine doing this in a trailer," the magazine quoted the Johannesburg team's leader Paul Bartels as saying.

"We were very surprised at the health of the embryos. They looked so good."

Copyright 2002 Reuters