Cloned Ox, from
Rare Species, Dies
Associated Press Writer
[ Editor's Request: Does anyone have a photo of Noah, the gaur?]
January 12, 2001; Des Moines, IA (AP) -- A rare ox called an Asian gaur, cloned and gestated in the womb of a cow in a scientific first, was born this week but "died two days later of an ordinary disease," scientists announced Friday. Scientists claimed bittersweet victory in the experiment, which used technology they hope can help shore up the numbers of endangered animals. The Asian gaur (pronounced "GOU-er") is endangered.
The male baby gaur, a bull named Noah, was born Monday at TransOva Genetics in Sioux Center, Iowa, [ Editor's Note: The exact location of the farm was a closely-guarded secret until recently, due to fears that animal rights' people might attempt to penetrate security and interfere with the experiment] and died from common dysentery Wednesday. The project united the technology of cloning with that of an interspecies birth. Noah was the first animal to gestate in the womb of another species and survive through the late stages of fetal development. Five other cows that became pregnant with cloned gaur fetuses spontaneously aborted them.
"The data collected clearly indicates that cross-species cloning worked, and as a scientist, I'm pleased,'' said Philip Damiani, a researcher with Advanced Cell Technology, a Boston-based company that sponsored the research. "A necropsy of the gaur concluded that its death was not a result of cloning or gestation in another species," said Robert Lanza, Vice President of Medical and Scientific Development at ACT. However, scientists plan to study the gaur's death further. "We don't believe it had to do with the cloning," he said. "Dysentery affects all farm animals, and the mortality rate can approach 100 percent." [ Editor's Note: I don't believe this. How can we have such bad luck? We should try to get some statistics about "dysentery" at this particular location.]
To create Noah, scientists used the single cell of a dead gaur implanted into a cow's egg. "They first removed the DNA from the cow's egg, ensuring that the interspecies pregnancy produced a gaur, not a gaur-cow mix," Damiani said.
Gaur, native to India and Burma, are brownish-black animals with white legs, a pronounced shoulder hump, and horns that curve inward. The largest of wild cattle, an adult male gaur can reach a shoulder height of six feet and weigh up to a ton, with horns two feet long. "Despite this setback, the birth of Noah is grounds for hope," Lanza said. "We still have a long way to go, but as this new technology evolves, it has the potential to save dozens of endangered species."
Bessie, an ordinary black and white Angus cow, gave birth under the watchful gaze of geneticists. "The experiment cost Advanced Cell Technology around $200,000," Damiani said.
Some scientists warn that biotechnology is advancing at a pace so fast that society does not have time to ponder its meaning. [ Editor's Note: We don't need you to spend your time "pondering the meaning;" instead, what we need is for you to help us get on with the work. Don't you have a vision of what needs to be done -- what's not done yet? Just ask us. We'll tell you.] Just Thursday, scientists in Oregon announced they had created the world's first genetically modified primate -- a baby Rhesus monkey born last fall with some jellyfish DNA in its genetic makeup. Commenting on the Iowa research, Gary Comstock, Director of Iowa State University's Bioethics Program, said "scientists must answer to whether the bioengineered animals will be healthy and whether they will have a place to live." [ Editor's Note: Get with the program, Dr. Comstock.] "If the environment changes, the newly cloned animals may lead miserable lives, if they are unable to pursue their instincts and desires," Comstock said. "They can't live here any more -- that's why they're extinct. We need broader types of habitat the animals can live in. Just preserving the species is too narrow a vision." [ Editor's Note: So true. And ACT has the correct vision; thank goodness someone does.]
Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) already has plans to clone an extinct Spanish mountain goat called the bucardo, which is native to the Pyrenees. The cells will be taken from the last bucardo, who died and was frozen last year.
But the gaur birth won't bring a rush of scientists producing extinct and endangered species, said George Amato, Director of Science Resource Center at The Bronx Zoo in New York. "It's complicated, expensive, and it doesn't work all the time," he said. "It's not an answer to the extinction crisis." For instance, the procedure won't resurrect the extinct Dodo bird because scientists don't have its genetic makeup. Also, some endangered animals don't have any living surrogates that are suitable matches. "While the gaur and cow are close in the animal kingdom, Amato said, "there aren't any strong surrogate candidates to produce the rare Tibetan antelope, as one example."
On the Web:
(1) Advanced Cell Technology:
(2) TransOva Genetics: http://www.transova.com/home.html .
Endangered Species Dies Two Days After Birth
CNN Science Producer
January 12, 2001;10:45 AM EST; Worcester, MA (CNN) -- The world's first cloned endangered species -- a baby Asian ox called a gaur -- died of dysentery within 48 hours of birth, scientists said Friday. But, "it's highly unlikely that the dysentery was related to the cloning," the scientists said.
Noah, as the gaur was called, was born on January 8th in Des Moines, IA weighing 80 pounds. "Within 12 hours of birth, Noah was able to stand unaided and began an inquisitive search of his new surroundings," said Dr. Jonathan Hill, one of a team of scientists to monitor Noah's condition. But at one day old, Noah began to exhibit symptoms of a common infection, and succumbed to it, despite our treatment efforts." On the other hand, his surrogate mother -- a cow named Bessie -- remains fine.
The gaur is an ox native to Southeast Asia and India, and while about 30,000 exist in the wild, their numbers are declining because of hunting and habitat loss. Scientists say the cloning of such endangered animals could save them from extinction, or even bring back species already extinct. "The data collected clearly indicate that cross-species cloning worked, and, as a scientist, I am pleased," researcher Philip Damiani said in a statement. Damiani is with Advanced Cell Technology, the biotech company that conducted the research. "As a person, however, I am saddened that an animal died," Damiani said. "In the short period of time Noah was with us, he showed himself to be a vigorous and friendly calf. Noah is the first individual of an endangered species to be cloned and then brought successfully to term by a surrogate mother from another, more common, species -- in this case a domestic cow."
Bessie was not the first cow to give birth to a gaur. Cows have previously carried "test-tube" gaurs to term, but Bessie is the first to actually mother a cloned gaur.
To clone the gaur, scientists first removed the nucleus from a cow's egg cell and replaced it with the nucleus of a gaur skin cell. The nucleus contains all the genetic material needed for the gaur to grow and develop. "The chromosomes are 100 percent gaur and, of course, the chromosomes are responsible for all of our traits," said Dr. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology before the birth.
Bessie was one of 40 cows to have a cloned gaur embryo placed in her womb. Some of the other cows miscarried; in other cases, gaur fetuses were aborted so scientists could check whether they were developmentally and genetically sound.
Critics worry the cloning of endangered species could hamper efforts to conserve biodiverse habitats by offering a sort of "silver bullet" solution to saving endangered species. But some scientists counter cloning could be used to bolster valuable genetic diversity needed to rebuild a species when their numbers have been severely compromised. And they do not suggest that cloning could be used to create large numbers of animals or to completely repopulate a depleted species.
"When you get down to a few dozen members of a species, you're really talking about very serious problems," Lanza said. "So this is a tool. From now on there never need be a loss of genetic diversity that remains in these wild populations."
Among the reasons scientists selected the gaur for the cloning experiment was its compatibility with the cow. Both animals are roughly the same size with roughly similar gestation periods, so a cow has a good chance of carrying a healthy gaur to term.
The scientists have not indicated whether they intend to try to clone a gaur again using a cow as the surrogate mother, but they do have long-term goals for more cloning research. Instead, they say they plan to clone an extinct Spanish mountain goat called a bucardo, and they have expressed interest in cloning other endangered animals like the gorilla, the ocelot, and even the giant panda. [ Editor's Note: But we need to get our technique up: [40 surrogates cows > 6 pregnancies > 1 live birth] is actually pretty pathetic [1:40]. What sort of experiments do we need to do to lift our yield statistics? And how much will they cost? Will ACT publish there methodology in a scientific journal?]
January 15, 2001; Sioux City, IA (WSJ) ...After an unexpectedly long gestation period, the bull gaur was born at 7:30 PM on January 8th. Despite extraordinary attention from a team of veterinarians, the calf died 48 hours later from a common bacterial infection. Dr. Paul Hower, a veterinarian with the USDA siad "the condition termed clostridial enteritis is a very common disease of newborn animals." [Editor's Note: In commercial cattle-breeding operations, a vaccine costing less than a dollar is used to prevent the infection, but it wasn't used in this case. Why not?]