Japan's big break into cloned beef

Japanese scientists said on Thursday they had successfully cloned the ancestral bull of a luxurious brand of beef, possibly opening the way to distribute cloned beef.

At the start of the Year of the Ox, researchers announced they had kept frozen for 13 years the testicles of a bull named Yasufuku, the progenitor of the expensive Hida-gyu brand of beef in central Gifu district.

The researchers at Kinki University and Gifu’s livestock research institute said they had cloned four Yasufuku calves between November 2007 and July 2008, although two of them died afterwards.

“Yasufuku’s testicles were frozen for a decade without any special treatment,” the team said, calling it a breakthrough as specimens used for cloning are usually preserved carefully.

Japan has a variety of beef marketed as high-end. Ranchers sometimes massage the animals or feed them beer while they are being raised for slaughter.

A Japanese government panel is studying the safety of cloned beef and is reportedly leaning towards allowing it. US and European safety authorities last year gave the go-ahead for sales of food from cloned animals.

But the researchers said that for now they planned to use cloned animals to study what kinds of gene and protein structures make tasty beef rather than applying them directly to produce food.

Bringing back the mammoth
Kinki University said it also hoped to advance an ambitious long-term project—to restore extinct animals.

“Our dream is to create a mammoth, although it is a big dream,” said Kazuhiro Saeki, a professor at Kinki University.

To revive the huge Ice Age mammal, researchers would need to find a way to implant a cell nucleus into the egg of an elephant—the mammoth’s closest modern relative—and then implant that into an elephant’s uterus.—AFP


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