The kitten is believed to be the first successfully cloned companion animal, and Texas A&M is the first academic institution in the world to have cloned four different species. Previously, researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine have cloned cattle, goats and pigs.
cc and "Rainbow," her genetic donor, are both female domestic shorthair cats. The announcement of the successful cat cloning was delayed until DNA analysis could be performed to confirm genetic identity.
This breakthrough in cat cloning at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M is reported in the current issue of Nature, the prestigious scientific publication headquartered in London, England.
"cc is developing normally for a kitten its age and appears healthy," said Dr. Mark Westhusin, who holds a joint appointment with the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture and Life Sciences and is the lead investigator on the project. "A DNA analysis confirmed cc is a clone, i.e. a genetic copy of the donor," adding that "future scientific advances resulting from the successful cloning of the cat are expected."
Although the cloned kitten exhibits a color pattern similar to the cell donor, the color distribution is not exactly the same.
"The pattern of pigmentation in multi-colored animals is the result of genetic factors as well as developmental factors that are not controlled by genotype," explains Westhusin.
The clone was produced using nuclear transfer. Dr. Taeyoung Shin performed the nuclear transfer procedures with Drs. Duane Kraemer, Jim Rugila and Lisa Howe assisting with transfer of the cloned embryos into the surrogate mother and delivery of the kitten. cc is under the medical care of Drs. Rugila and Howe, both veterinarians at the College of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at Texas A&M.
"With each new species cloned, we learn more about how this technology might be applied to improving the health of animals and humans," said Westhusin.
In August 2001, the first of five litters of cloned piglets were born at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M. Other cloned animals born at the university include a Boer goat, a disease-resistant Angus bull, and the first Brahma bull. Texas A&M researchers are also aggressively working to clone dogs and horses.
"The knowledge we gain from cloning these animals could greatly affect several areas of science and medicine," said H. Richard Adams, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. "With each successful cloned species, we learn more about cloning procedures and how to make the process more efficient."
The Missyplicity Project, a $3.7 million effort to clone a specific mixed-breed dog named Missy, funded by Genetic Savings & Clone, Inc., is helping to fuel the progress of Texas A&M's cloning research program.
Established in 1916, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M is one of the world 's largest veterinary colleges and is an international leader in animal health care and research.