Clone of Cloned Steer Bred in Japan
Shihoko Goto,
Associated Press Writer

11:50 AM EST, January 24, 2000; Tokyo (AP) -- Japanese scientists have bred the clone of a cloned bull, the first time a large cloned animal has itself been cloned, researchers said Monday. The calf born Sunday night is part of a project to study the life expectancy and aging of cloned animals, scientists at the Kagoshima Prefectural Cattle Breeding Development Institute said. The three generations of genetically identical bulls -- the original animal and the two clones -- are being studied at the Institute in southern Japan. "There is speculation that cloned animals may not be as healthy or live as long as normal animals," said Norio Tabara, one of the research scientists involved in the project.

Researchers in the United States have successfully bred clones of cloned mice. In Japan, skin tissue was taken from the ear of a cloned bull last April when the animal was four months old. Those cells were fused with an unfertilized egg that had been stripped of its nucleus and placed in the womb of a cow. The resulting bull calf weighed nearly 100 pounds at birth. The primary purpose of the Institute's project is to produce tasty beef. "Our objective is to produce good cattle consistently," said Tabara. "If there's a stud that's of the highest quality, we want that bull to be available more widely."

Cloning also reduces the amount of time needed for breeding. The tissues of an animal as young as three months can be used for cloning, while cows do not mate naturally until they are about 14 months old. Cloned beef is already on sale in Japanese supermarkets, although the government's announcement last April that it had already allowed cloned beef to be sold unmarked for at least two years sparked a beef boycott nationwide.