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Buffalo clone raises livestock hopes

Subhra Priyadarshini

doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.38 Published online 13 February 2009

NDRI scientists with the cloned buffalo calf.

© NDRI

India's first cloned buffalo calf died at the National Dairy Research Institute in Karnal, Haryana, five days after its birth leaving an optimistic message behind – that India's livestock farmers have a lot to cheer in years to come. With a little tweaking, the scientists hope to fine tune the 'hand-guided' cloning technique to produce perfect clones soon1.

The team, working on the cloning project for over 15 years now, is busy fielding phone calls from across the world. The calf had been delivered to a one-year-old surrogate mother on February 6 and succumbed to a lung infection on February 11. However, the six-member team of animal biotechnologists is happy that the technology they used was far superior to the one used to clone 'Dolly' the sheep in Scotland.

The 'Murrah' breed female buffalo calf was of the high milk-yielding variety. NDRI's S. K. Singla told Nature India that the new technique was less demanding in terms of equipment, time and skill. "In this technique the oocytes isolated from abattoir ovaries were matured in vitro, denuded, treated with an enzyme to digest the zona and then enucleated with the help of handheld fine blade," the NDRI press release said.

Somatic cells from ear of a donor buffalo were propagated to be used as donor-nuclei. The enucleated oocytes and donor-nuclei were electro fused, cultured, grown in the laboratory and the resultant embryos were transferred to recipient buffaloes for the production of the calf of desired gender, in this case a female. "An advantage of this technique is that one can clone a desired sex," Singla said.

This was the first official animal cloning done in India.

Singla and his team — R. S. Manik, M. S. Chauhan, P. Palta, R. A. Shah and A. George — are also celebrating the grant of keenly awaited funds under the National Agricultural Innovation Project. "Scientists have an ambition to make their technology successful. With this fund, we can make a lot of choices — better equipment, better manpower. We would be happy if we can make successful clones for the greater good of farmers," he said.

NDRI Director A. K. Srivastava, said India has the largest population of the best buffaloes in the world. However, the percentage of elite animals was very low and there was an urgent need to enhance this population.


Updated:

Following a Chinese group's claim to have produced the world's first buffalo clone, we have replaced the words 'world's first' with 'India's first' to describe the NDRI buffalo clone in this article.


References

  1. Shah, R. A. et al. Pregnancies established from handmade cloned blastocysts reconstructed using skin fibroblasts in buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). Theriogenology. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2008.10.004 (2009)