A biotechnology company announced Wednesday that it had cloned a bull using a new “highly advanced” technique, but declined to reveal how the method differs from existing technologies.
The first clone produced by ABS Global, which specializes in cattle reproductive science, was a black-and-white Holstein born six months ago, said Tom Gahm, a spokesman for the company, based in De Forest.
The calf is named Gene.
Gahm said details of the cloning procedure would be revealed at a news conference today.
ABS officials said adult animal cells were not used to clone Gene.
That means the calf is significantly different from Dolly, the sheep cloned last year by Scottish researchers. Dolly was produced from the udder cell of a six year-old ewe.
Many species - including sheep, cattle, rabbits, monkeys and mice - have been cloned from embryos, which are easier to clone than adult cells.
“In the particular case of Gene, it was not cloned from an adult bull. But the cloning technology that we have still allows us to have the capability of taking cells from adults,” said Dale Schwartz, CEO of a new ABS subsidiary created to market the cloning technology.
“There are a variety of efficiencies and commercial benefits in the particular science we’ve used in the cloning of Gene,” he said.
University of Wisconsin-Madison ethicist Alta Charo said she is not surprised to hear that a private lab has cloned a calf.
“They’re trying desperately to move this thing forward to where it can be commercialized,” said Charo, a law professor who served on President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Committee.
Produced without sexual reproduction, a clone is an exact genetic duplicate of another animal. Cloned cattle would be useful in agriculture because they could be genetically manipulated to produce impressive amounts of milk or beef.
“It could result in fewer cows because many dairy farmers, if they can maintain their volume with fewer cows, will do that,” said Richard Weiss, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, a group of farmer-owned dairy cooperatives.
Cloning might also allow the insertion of genes that would cause a sheep or cow to produce drugs or other valuable substances in its milk.
PPL, the company that cloned Dolly, has been trying to clone cows at a ranch in Virginia. PPL scientists there and at the Corporate Research Center at Virginia Tech have impregnated several cows with cloned embryos.
ABS Global began its cloning program in 1987. The company is patenting its process, Schwartz said.
ABS Global has $65 million in annual sales of bull semen and services such as artificial insemination. The company has customers in 70 countries.