14 January 2000

Cow clones, Dolly-style

COWS are being cloned commercially for the first time in New Zealand using the same technology which created Dolly the sheep.

Using similar techniques to those which produced Dolly, researchers at AgResearch, the New Zealand government agency, have created 16 genetically engineered cows at Ruakura, on the North Island.

According to a report in The Sunday Times, Jan 9, the aim is to build up a 1500-strong dairy herd, which will produce medicine in their milk to combat diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and cystic fibrosis.

One refinement which has been adopted to the Dolly technology is that human genes are inserted into cloned embryos. This procedure enables heifers to produce myelin, the substance which surrounds nerve cells in humans and is absent in MS sufferers.

According to the report, another commercial cloning scheme is also underway in New Zealand. PPL Therapeutics is trying to establish a 10,000 head milking flock of transgenic sheep at a hill farm at Mangakino, in the central area of the North Island.

In this case, sheep have been genetically modified to contain the human gene for alpha-1-antitrypsin. This can be taken from transgenic sheeps milk to treat cystic fibrosis in humans.