University of Massachusetts scientists yesterday announced the births of the first cloned cattle with genetically engineered traits, a breakthrough they say could have great benefits for US agriculture, medicine, and biotechnology.
The feat, accomplished at UMass-Amherst, demonstrates that scientists can introduce new traits into cattle and produce any number of identical animals having these traits, all in one process.
Because cows are far more economically important in this country than sheep -- the animals that have made cloning history in Scotland during the past year -- US scientists had been racing to bring the cloning technology to cattle.
Among the first payoffs are expected to be cows genetically modified to secrete pharmaceutical drugs in their milk at lower cost, in many instances, than by conventional manufacture. The drugs could be extracted from the milk or even drunk by patients in the form termed "nutraceuticals."
"It's a faster, safer, more cost-effective way of producing pharmaceutical drugs," said Steven Stice, chief financial officer of Advanced Cell Technology Inc., a Worcester-based startup company spun off from UMass. He and James Robl, an animal science professor at the university, are cofounders of ACT. Stice is an adjunct professor at UMass.
In a report to the annual meeting in Boston of the International Embryo Transfer Society, Stice and Robl said that in addition to its use in pharmaceuticals, the technology would be a benefit to the livestock industry. They envision entire herds of identical cattle with improved meat and milk characteristics, or genetic traits making them resistant to various diseases, such as BSE or "mad cow" disease….
The proof of the cow-cloning technology is embodied in two brown-and-white calves named Charlie and George born last week in Texas from embryos created at UMass. Another calf has been born more recently, the scientists said yesterday, and a previously born calf died last fall from congenital abnormalities.
Charlie and George are "the first cloned, transgenic calves in the world," said Stice….
Boston Globe, January 21, 1998