Reports of herds of identical cattle have been raised by the news that Japanese and American scientists have successfully cloned six calves from a bull's ear. The information has been leaked from a research paper awaiting publication, written by scientists from Connecticut University in America and the Kagoshima Prefectural Cattle Breeding Development Institute in Japan. This may not seem like new news: Dolly, the world's first clone from an adult mammal has shown that the technology is already available.
What makes the cloned calves different is that they are the first farm animals to be cloned from cells left to develop and grow for a long period. Cells taken from the skin of the bull's ear were grown in a laboratory dish for three months. This time-scale allowed researchers to make specific changes to the genetic material in the cells. In turn, this will affect the genetic information that is inherited from the calves by their future offspring.
The technique of cloning from cultured and genetically modified cells means that it may now be possible to produce a herd of identical cattle from one individual. The breakthrough means that it will now be possible to perform virtually any genetic modification to the cells of cattle and other farm animals. Such changes have only previously been successful on mice.