Japan's Cloned Cows Are One Year Old

July 5, 1999; 12:02 PM EST; Tokyo, JAPAN (AP) -- The world's first clones from cells of an adult cow turned one-year-old on Monday, and Japanese officials said they are growing strong and healthy. The twins, named Noto and Kaga, were the second adult-animal clones after Dolly, the British sheep that made history by becoming the first clone of an adult animal.

Despite being slightly smaller than most cows their age, Noto and Kaga are quite healthy, said Tatsuhiko Matsuda, an official of the Ishikawa Prefectural Livestock Research Center, 190 miles northwest of Tokyo. "They are full of energy, they have had no unusual illnesses and they are growing vigorously," he said. The pair was born about 40 days prematurely and at 440 pounds now, they are still slightly below average size, he said. The cows should soon reach sexual maturity and the next step for the researchers is to determine if they are capable of giving birth, Matsuda said. If all is normal, the cows will be artificially inseminated in an attempt to produce a second-generation of cloned-[derived] animals.

Noto and Kaga were born after researchers took cells from an adult cow and placed them in unfertilized eggs whose own nuclei had been removed. The artificially cultivated embryos were then placed into the wombs of cows. Their births were significant primarily because they showed that other animals, not just sheep, could be cloned. Cloning an adult, rather than a fetus, means that scientists could reproduce animals with chosen characteristics. For example, adult cows that produce more milk could be targeted for cloning.

Scientists have cloned several kinds of animals since Dolly's arrival three years ago. In April, geneticists at Tufts University in Massachusetts cloned three goats.