Animal cloning is nothing new in todays bio-tech driven world. Mankind has successfully cloned sheep, cows and pigs, to name a few.
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Video: China’s Industrial Scale Cloning ( GeoBeatsNews / YouTube)
China however is pushing the limits of applying this bio-technology by setting up mass production industrial centers that are cloning hundreds of pigs a year. And this is by no means just a plan. Reports say that the ?oinks and squeals? of hundreds of pigs are easily heard once you approach the series of lengthy buildings lined up in Southern China.
This ?farm?, managed by a leading player in the bio-tech industry, BGI, claims the distinction of being the world’s foremost and biggest facility for cloning porkers.
BGI themselves acknowledge that the technology that they are utilizing is not original or novel. Their implementation of mass industrial production however makes their facility unique and impressive.
One BGI swine shed is occupied by 90 pigs lined up in two rows. The pigs do not look any different from what any observer may see in any other pig farm all over the world. What cannot be seen however is the fact that each of the pigs in this center carries cloned embryos. In fact, many of the pigs that were presented to the media are in fact clones.
The whole center has the capacity of ?producing? 500 cloned pigs annually.
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Video: China Cloning Pigs on Industrial Scale ( derek Smith / YouTube)
In a surprising show of openness, reporters were treated to an unexpected presentation ? how the cloning was done. The observers were led to a room right next to the pig pens and this room functioned as a surgery area where a sow is seen lying on an operating table. The sow, who is unconscious due to an anesthetic, is breathing steadily through a mask that is snuggly fitted on her snout. Technicians are seen implanting early stage embryos. It was explained that a team of technicians can perform two implants of ?blastocysts? a day with a 70%-80% success rate.
The reporters, which included a television crew from a foreign news station, were also presented with newly born piglets. They were informed that the piglets they were seeing are clones and some are even ?clones of clones?.
The cloning of pigs by BGI is primarily for medical testing. The company explained that because pigs are so genetically similar to human beings, they are the perfect ?models? to manipulate in order to facilitate medical tests that will be beneficial to the research and development of medicines and treatments.
An example cited by BGI is a batch of pigs that had their ?growth gene? removed and this resulted in stopping their growth at the age of 1 year. Other batches had their DNA manipulated in order for the pigs to be more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
In this manner, pigs are used to test medicines and treatments that can later be applied to humans.
BGI however does not stop here. The company is not only the largest cloning facility for pigs, it is also the largest facility for gene sequencing. BGI operates 156 gene sequencing machines. The biggest such center in Europe, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute operates a measly 30 gene sequencing machines.
BGI is a very ambitious company and some of its pronouncements can be a bit shocking and staggering. The company supposedly aims to sequence the genes of ? a million people, a million animals and a million plants?. Wang Jun, the CEO of BGI explains their motivations. He says that ?If it tastes good you should sequence it…..You should know what’s in the genes of that species.?
Wang Jun emphasized that their research and activities are also programmed to benefit higher yields in agricultural production as well as research benefits for the medical and healthcare industry.
Surprisingly, Wang Jun adds that ?A third category is if it looks cute – anything that looks cute: panda, polar bear, penguin, you should really sequence it – it’s like digitalising all the wonderful species….?
Many tech experts also see the BGI development as one more proof that China is on its way in being a giant in the field of science and technology. The Chinese have already placed a robotic vehicle on the moon as well as having the ?world’s fastest? supercomputer. With BGI, it gives the rest of the world a glimpse of what it can do in the vital field of bio-technology.
Photo Sources: http://www.genomics.cn/en/index