Noah Is Born
Worcester, MA, – Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. announced that the first cloned endangered animal was born at 7:30 PM on Monday, January 8, 2001. The birth of the baby bull gaur, Noah, is the first successful birth of a cloned animal that is a member of an endangered species. While healthy at birth, Noah died within 48 hours of a common dysentery likely unrelated to cloning.”
The data collected clearly indicate that cross-species cloning worked and, as a scientist, I am pleased,” explained Philip Damiani, Ph.D., a researcher with Advanced Cell Technology (ACT). “As a person, however, I am saddened that an animal died. 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. His birth brightens the prospects that we can apply this technology to many species on the verge of extinction.”
Robert Lanza, M.D., Vice President of Medical & Scientific Development at ACT, said, “Noah died from clostridial enteritis, a bacterial infection that is almost universally fatal in newborn animals. However, despite this setback, the birth of Noah is grounds for hope. We still have a long way to go, but as this new technology evolves, it has the potential to save dozens of endangered species.”
The birth of any cloned animal is a very tense period when careful observations are needed to determine how well the animal has made the transition to the outside world. Immediately after Noah’s birth, veterinarians and technicians under the direction of Jonathan Hill, D.V.M., Ph.D., from Cornell University intensively monitored Noah and administered a variety of treatments.
“The first 48 hours is a particularly vulnerable time for newborn animals similar to a premature human baby,” explained Dr. Hill. “Within 12 hours of birth, Noah was able to stand unaided and began an inquisitive search of his new surroundings. But at 1 day old, Noah began to exhibit symptoms of a common infection, and succumbed to it despite our treatment efforts. His mother, Bessie, the domestic cow, remains healthy.”
The gaur is a large wild ox species, which is generally brown or black with a humplike ridge on its back and with white or yellow stockings on all four legs. Adult males have shoulder heights of 5.6-7.2 feet and weigh up to 2,200 pounds. Females are about one-third smaller than males. Males and females both have horns, which are flattened at the base, strongly curved and sweep backward and inward.
Hunted for sport for generations and with reduced natural habitats in its homelands in India, Indochina and Southeast Asia, the species is now on the list of endangered species. ACT elected to use the animal because it has had previous success cloning domestic cows, which are closely related to the gaur.
The cells from which Noah was created originated from a male gaur that died of natural causes at 5 years of age. At autopsy, skin cells were taken and frozen and stored for eight years in the Frozen Zoo at the Center for the Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES), at the San Diego Zoo. Eight years later the cells were thawed, and cloned using cross-species cloning. In this novel procedure first reported in the peer-reviewed journal, Cloning, the egg cells of a common cow were used. The genetic information of the cow was removed, and the gaur cells from the cell bank were implanted into the egg cell. The resulting embryos were implanted in the uterus of the cow and taken to term. Forty embryos were transferred into domestic cows and eight viable pregnancies were detected – only one gaur, Noah, was carried to full-term. Noah was delivered at Trans Ova Genetics, Genetic Advancement Center in Iowa. He weighed 80 lbs. at birth.
“Trans Ova Genetics was proud to be involved in the successful gestation and birth of Noah. We believe it illustrates another tremendous application of cloning technology, and presents another option for management of endangered species. We know that we have personally witnessed a breakthrough,” Dr. David Faber, President of Trans Ova Genetics.
“Science has advanced to the point of being able to successfully create a healthy trans-species gaur clone,” said Dr. Kurt Benirschke, former president of the Zoological Society of San Diego and founder of the “Frozen Zoo.” “The Zoological Society is saddened by the news of Noah’s death. Still, we are encouraged that scientists are learning to perfect this process and have continued hope for its inevitable role in the conservation of endangered species.”
“We are gratified by the hard work and vision of many people on an effort carried out almost flawlessly,” said Michael West, Ph.D., President and CEO of ACT. “While we set the “bar” at long-term survival, this was clearly a huge step forward.”
ACT is a biotechnology company focused on discovering and developing the applications of cloning technology in human medicine and agriculture. Soma Foundation is a nonprofit organization created to help fund the research that leads to efforts of zoos and other institutions interested in cloning endangered species.
Collaborating with ACT were Trans-Ova Genetics of Sioux Center, Iowa, Dr. Jonathan Hill of Cornell University, and The San Diego Frozen Zoo and The Reproduction of Endangered Species of Captive Ungulates (RESCU) International that supplied the gaur cells.
For an overview of the relevant research currently being performed, visit http://www.scientificamerican.com for an article by ACT’s Dr. Lanza and Dr. Damiani and Dr. Betsy Dresser of the Audubon Institute Center for the Research of Endangered in the November 2000 issue of Scientific American which is currently available online.
For additional information, please visit: