Ruakura pulls pin on cloning facility


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Ruakura pulls pin on cloning facility


Waikato Times

Last updated 13:00 21/02/2011

The axe has fallen on AgResearch's controversial livestock cloning facility at Ruakura amid reports only 10 per cent of animals involved survived.

But applied biotechnologies general manager Jimmy Suttie said this morning the Hamilton facility – capable of containing up to 200 animals – had closed in September because stem cell research showed more promise.

Reports released by the Crown research institute under the Official Information Act show unacceptable death rates of laboratory animals forced AgResearch to end its cloning trials.

The reports detail chronic arthritis, pneumonia, lameness and blood poisoning among the causes of cattle, sheep and goat deaths and refer to trials including those carried out on genetically engineered animals being developed to produce a kind of super milk, as well as those being cloned.

Other trials where deaths occurred included those looking for resistance to eczema in sheep, exploring feeding motivation in pregnant sheep, and collecting tissue from genetically modified embryos.

Dr Suttie said that after 13 years of studying how to prevent abnormalities forming in cloned animals AgResearch had ended its cloning research.

"The decision was made, enough is enough."

Only about 10 per cent of cloned animals survived through the trials, with the major problems being spontaneous abortions and hydrops – where a cow's uterus filled up with water, leading to the mother being euthanised as well.

Animal Ethics Committee reports from Ruakura show 16 foetuses or calves from mid gestation onwards either spontaneously aborted or died in the neo natal period last year.

Another 10 foetuses or calves were euthanised, as were 14 cows during last year's cloning trials.

Ruakura-based Vish Vishwanath, head of reproductive technologies, said the lab was closed due to a shift in focus driven by the Foundation of Research, Science and Technology (FORST).

The scientists who had worked on cloning were now working on stem cell reserarch.

Animal rights group Safe campaign director Hans Kriek said he did not believe New Zealand had seen the end of cloning. "While the cloning has been halted for now, it just takes another company to ask for more research."

- Waikato Times