Genetic flaws hit cloned animals clones hit by flaws in genes

CLONED ANIMALS have been found to suffer from serious genetic defects - a discovery that could deliver a fatal blow to hopes of ever using cloning for human reproduction.

French scientists have for the first time found unequivocal evidence that cloning inter-feres with the normal function of genes, a factor that can lead to debilitating illnesses and death. Ian Wilmut, the scientist at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh who cloned Dolly the sheep, said the findings are the most detailed so far to explain the side-effects resulting from the cloning process.

Professor Wilmut, who cloned Dolly by transferring the nucleus of an udder cell taken from a six-year-old ewe into an unfertilised egg that had its own nucleus removed, said inherent problems with the technique may prevent it ever being applied to humans.

"It astonishes me that people would consider human reproductive cloning and this research adds further concern," he said.

"It is the most detailed information to emerge so far of the abnormalities arising from nuclear transfer and it is further evidence that we should be extremely cautious in ever applying this to humans."

Dolly, the first adult clone of a mammal, raised the prospect of scientists being able to clone identical copies of adult human beings. Although Dolly herself appears normal, evidence that other animals created by the same process suffer from genetic disorders will make human reproductive cloning less likely to receive ethical consent.

The French team, led by Jean-Paul Renard of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Jouy-en-Josas, investigated the death of a calf that was cloned from a skin cell taken from the ear of a 15-day-old calf, which was itself a clone of a bovine embryo.

The calf that died had developed normally for the first six weeks but then suffered a rapid depletion of blood cells and severe anaemia caused by the incomplete development of its lymph glands.

In a research paper published in The Lancet, the scientists say: "This is the first report of a long-lasting defect associated with somatic [adult cell] cloning."

Because the "parent" of the calf was itself an embryonic clone that had suffered no ill-effects, the scientists were able to conclude that the death of the calf must have been due to the process of nuclear transfer from an adult cell.

Professor Wilmut said the cause of the problems could be connected with the genetic "reprogramming" of the adult cell nucleus, which is necessary for it to switch on all the genes needed to create a fully grown animal from a single cell.

"What has to happen is that the adult cell's genes are switched off and the genetic reprogramming needs to be done.

"People were surprised this could happen at all, so it is not surprising that sometimes it almost happens but not quite enough," Professor Wilmut said.

Cloning by nuclear transfer is known to cause an unusually high number of deaths. Up to 50 per cent of cloned sheep foetuses die in the womb - 10 times higher than normal - and about 20 per cent of live births result in the animals dying within the first few days, about three times higher than the normal death rate immediately after birth.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence