Taiwan announces first ever cloned mini pigs

Photo is just for illustration.

TAIPEI - In a feat never before achieved, a Taiwanese research team has successfully cloned two miniature pigs after three years of experiment, the National Science Council (NSC) announced yesterday.

The NSC said that the technology the team developed is more efficient and less costly than the traditional cloning technology, adding that this outcome may help promote cloning among authorities responsible for local agricultural.

The team spent NT$6 million (S$249,960) developing Oocyte bisection cloning technology (OBCT), the NSC said, and successfully cloned two patched miniature pigs. One of the cloned pigs has produced offspring, said the NSC.

The team consists of experts from National Chung Hsing University's Department of Animal Science, Chung Shan Medical University, Tunghai University and Animal Technology Institute Taiwan.

Their research has been published in a number of international journals, including Theriogenology, in 2010; Reproductive Sciences, in 2012; and the Journal of Reproduction and Development, in 2013.

Chu Cheng-chih (???), a professor from National Chung Hsing University and a member of the research team, said that the newly developed OBCT is based on Australian scientist Dr. G. Vajta's "handmade cloning" technology.

Chu said traditional cloning technology - somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) - requires expensive equipment and intensely trained experts, which present barriers to mass usage.

According to Chu, the equipment for the SCNT approach costs about NT$2-3 million, while the OBCT method only costs around NT$500,000. Therefore, Chu said, it is easier to promote the OBCT to local agricultural authorities.

The SCNT method was born in 1997 as a technique for cloning animals. The first cloned sheep, Dolly, was produced using the SCNT approach.

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