The cloning process was the same as that used to create Dolly the sheep. However, previous attempts to clone rabbits have been unsuccessful. Jean Paul Renard, leader of the research team, said that 'to achieve this success, we have designed a specific cloning procedure adapted to the physiological characteristics of rabbit oocytes and early embryonic development'. Six clones were produced, of which four survived. Two of the cloned rabbits were naturally mated and have each had litters. Their offspring are developing normally.
The rabbits were cloned because, despite a rabbit's natural ability to reproduce, the use of cloning in conjunction with genetic manipulation may lead to animals that model human disease and can be used to develop drugs for use in humans. Rabbits are easier to manipulate in a laboratory than mice and are genetically closer to humans, hence the ability to clone rabbits offers some advantages.
The scientists and their colleagues are keen to develop rabbits that can produce drug molecules in their milk. If a rabbit could be genetically modified to do this, then it could be cloned so that large-scale production would be possible.