After buffalo, scientists to clone Pashmina goats

Krishnakumar P in Karnal | February 13, 2009 21:05 IST

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Scientists who succeeded in cloning the first ever buffalo using an advanced and cost-effective technique will next clone a Pashmina goat. Though the calf they cloned died within a week, they are not very bothered.

"Though the buffalo calf died in one week, we now know that the technique itself is correct and successful," said Riaz Ahmed Shah, who was one among the team of six scientists who cloned the world's first ever buffalo. Though the buffalo was born on February 6, the National Dairy Research Institute released the news only a day after it died of pneumonia.

"We wanted to make it public on the day of its birth. But the concerned authority was not in town and we could not go ahead," an institute official said.

On how the calf died, Riaz said the current cold weather in the region might have been a reason. "It stood up very early and began walking. So we had kept it outdoors. It got pneumonia two days before it died," Riaz said.

Though they succeeded in cloning it, not everything was alright with the calf: "It was bigger than a normal calf and also weighed heavier. We had to go for a C-section," the scientist, who works in a Kashmir university, said.

The calf, which doctors found was too large for a normal delivery, weighed 50 kg at birth while normal calves weigh 35-40 kg.

Explaining what is special about the cloned buffalo calf, Dr Riaz said: "This is the first time hand-guided cloning, which helps in getting an offspring of the desired sex, has been successfully tested."

This is not the first disappointment for the team. Some months ago, a calf died during the late stages of pregnancy.

Though the team is dejected that the calf died even before they could name it, they are confident that the next calf will live longer. "There are two more buffaloes that we impregnated using the same technique. They are expected to deliver in May and June," Riaz said.

The scientists initially wanted to clone cattle but since cattle slaughter is banned in most of north India, they had to settle for a buffalo.

However, the type of buffalo that the scientists chose is a very prominent species in these parts and gives as much as 40 litres of milk a day. "My guide Dr S K Singla had been working on cloning since 1993. Dolly was cloned only in 1997. My guide's project got delayed due to a number of reasons and when I had a opportunity to come here and work with him I took it up because I was confident we could achieve it," Riaz said.

The team's work is well acclaimed in the biotechnology sphere and also fetched them a grant of Rs 9 crore for further resesarch. Part of the money will go into cloning the Pashmina goat using the new technique."I will be using my part of the money to work on that project in my university," Riaz said.