One mouse is now the parent (sibling?) of 600 identical offspring after Japanese scientists announced their results after achieving 25 rounds of successful cloning using only one mouse. What makes this round of cloning so impressive is that the original mouse is still alive and healthy. With most previous rounds of cloning, the original specimen had to be killed so that its DNA could be harvested for cloning. In this lucky mouse’s case, scientists were able to use blood cells taken from the mouse’s tail to create the clones.
The goal of the cloning research was to further explore the different ways animals could be cloned, but also to provide a way to quickly and efficiently clone ideal species of mice for further experimentation. When scientists use mice in studies, it is imperative that each subject mouse be as reliable as possible. For example, if a subject mouse has some sort of health condition that scientists do not know about, the mouse may provide tainted data during testing. With this new mass-cloning system established, the “right” type of mouse can now be used over-and-over again.
The common system for cloning animals is called “cell nuclear transfer”. To create a clone, scientists extract a nucleus from a host-animals cell, and then insert that nucleus into an unfertilized egg that has had its original nucleus removed. The end result is that this newly reconstructed egg is guaranteed to produce a 100 percent DNA copy of the animal in which the cell was taken.
Red blood cells are merely the latest genetic material that science has found to be a viable cloning agent. Red blood cells are extremely easy to take from mice without harming or killing them, so this discovery could mean big things for the future of cloning.