Brazilian Cloning of Endangered Species may be Aided by Recent Kyoto University Stem Cell Discovery

As I reported last month, a team of researchers at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan Genetically engineered Embryonic Stem Cells in mice, and then created eggs and sperm from those cells. The eggs were fertilized in-vitro, and then planted into mice. The resulting pups were fine, with some of the pups conceiving later, naturally.

Brazilian officials recently announced that the Brasilia Zoological Garden in conjunction with Embrapa, the Brazilian governments agricultural research agency, were going to attempt to facilitate cloning of 8 of Brazil’s endangered species.

The 8 endangered species are The Black Lion Tamarin, The Bush Dog, The Coati, The Collared Anteater, The Maned Wolf, and The Leopard, as well as differing varieties of the Brazilian Deer and Bison.

“While still in its early stages, and with the birth of a clone likely years away, the project represents Brazilian scientists’ first foray into the cloning of wild animals,” said team leader Carlos Frederico Martins.

“Let’s be clear that cloning can’t be a substitute for protecting endangered animals’ habitats,” Martins said. “It’s a way to aid zoos beef up their collections, particularly for animals that don’t easily breed in captivity.”

Martins said that any clones that eventually emerge from the Brazilian project would go to zoos, not into the wild. “The idea is not to use cloning as a primary conservation tool,” stressing, ” that clones don’t resolve one of the main problems facing species with dwindling populations, which is maintaining a sufficiently varied gene pool.

With the advances of the Kyoto Stem Cell Discovery, endangered species with only 1 animal in existence could be successfully cloned, and re-cloned, in an all out effort to repopulate certain species.

Brazilian scientists have already spent the past two years collecting 420 genetic samples for the species—mostly from dead specimens found in the Cerrado savanna region—and are now waiting for legal authorization to start the cloning.

If the Brazilian cloning effort is successful, the animals would all be carbon copies of each other and therefore not useful for maintaining genetically varied populations—such diversity is key to a population’s resilience in the face of various diseases and predatory threats. Instead, the cloned animals would live at the zoological garden.

The approval process for the cloning attempt is expected to take roughly 1 month.

Article by Jim Donahue.

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