Hope for Endangered Species: Animal Cloning Advances (in a Lab Anyway)

Science moves quickly, in some cases a little too quickly for science to keep up with. An article in Scientific American today looks at cloning as a way to help endangered species and possibly even bring back recently extinct species. Overall the article is somewhat negative, pointing out some of the historic failures of cloning as an approach:
"Right now, though, cloning is unlikely to help the white rhino or any other threatened species. To date, the story of cloning endangered animals is one of a few high-profile successes and many, many failures. Since the early 2000s, using the same technique that produced Dolly, researchers have cloned several endangered and even extinct mammals, including a mouflon sheep and a bovine known as a gaur in 2001; a kind of wild cattle called a banteng in 2003; a wild goat known as thePyrenean ibex in 2009; and wild coyotes in 2012. In each case many more clones died before birth than survived; in most cases none of the clones survived into adulthood."

Although it does finish on a positive note:
"Teramo’s Loi remains optimistic too. He thinks that scientists should continue to collect and preserve the genetic information of endangered animals, as Brazil has done, creating bio-banks of tissue on ice, such as the "frozen zoo" at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. If researchers manage to dramatically increase the efficiency of cloning wild and endangered animals—whether with nuclear transfer or in vitro fertilization—then the DNA they need will be waiting for them. If they do not, bio-banks will still be useful for more basic research. "Once cloning of endangered animals is properly established, it will be a very powerful tool," Loi says. "If something can be done, it will be done in 10 years.""

It appears though that there is strong reason for optimism. According to another Scientific American article Japanese researchers seem to have perfected the technique used to create dolly the sheep:
"Japanese researchers have created a potentially endless line of mice cloned from other cloned mice. They used the same technique that created Dolly the sheep to produce 581 mice from an original donor mouse through 25 rounds of cloning, the scientists report in the March 7 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell.

"This technique could be very useful for the large-scale production of superior-quality animals, for farming or conservation purposes," study leader Teruhiko Wakayama of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, said in a statement."

Hopefully this means that the phrase "extinction is forever" will be added to the list of things smart people were wrong about.
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