Montreal, QC – Researchers in McGill University’s department of animal science have successfully produced three litters of cloned pigs, a Canadian first that will eventually contribute to advancing biomedical research into human ailments such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“This is an important intermediate step toward generating transgenic animal models for research because it gives us the opportunity to create animals from cell lines that can be easily manipulated in vitro; it could even lead to the development of new cell therapies for genetic diseases in humans,” says Dr Vilceu Bordignon, director of the large animal research unit at McGill.
The 17 piglets were produced from cells collected from a single pig. The cells were cultured in vitro and then injected into matured germ cells whose nuclei were removed. Developing embryos were later inserted into three female pigs – the same approach that gave birth to Dolly, a sheep that in 1996 was the first mammal to be cloned in this manner, Dr Bordignon says.
Of the 17 – all male, because the original cells were harvested from a male pig – seven were euthanized and underwent autopsies to determine any abnormalities as a result of the cloning. The remaining 10, now several weeks old, are developing normally.
“We’re monitoring their growth rate, but they’re not receiving any special treatment,” says Dr Bordignon. “They are feeding, growing and developing just like normal pigs.”
“Because we are the first in Canada, I’ve already been contacted by researchers from McGill and other Canadian universities interested in developing specific animal cells to study a variety of human diseases,” he adds.
The research was funded with approximately $1-million in grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Fonds qubcois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies and McGill University.