PPL Therapeutics, the biotech firm that cloned Dolly the sheep, is close to producing the world's first cloned pigs, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph. A surrogate sow is due to give birth to three piglets in April, PPL scientists revealed at a biotech conference last week. But they will have to wait until after the piglets are born before they can carry out the DNA tests that will confirm they are definitely clones.
Researchers have struggled for years to clone pigs, a procedure which has proved far more difficult than cloning sheep or mice. Ron James, PPL's chief executive, remains cautious about the firm's achievement: 'When the sow produces a viable piglet and we have shown that it was cloned will be the time to celebrate. At this stage, it is more likely to fail than to succeed'.
The attempt to clone pigs is part of PPL's research into xenotransplantation - the use of genetically-modified pig organs for human transplant operations. PPL has already applied for patent protection for its xenograft programme, even though it will be several more years before it will know whether it can start clinical trials.
Sources and References
Three little pigs bring human clone closer