Peng Peng became the first transgenic sheep produced from a simplified animal cloning technique that could lead to low-tech high-throughput cloning, according to an announcement Thursday by a private cloning company.
Scientists from BGI Ark Biotechnology Co. (BGI), the world's largest genomics organization based in China, announced that the male sheep was born on 26 March in Shenzhen and came from a technique called handmade cloning.
The scientists confirmed Peng Peng is growing normally and healthy, according to a prepared statement on Thursday.
"The most difficult task has been accomplished, the transgenic sheep production platform is established, we are ready for the industrial-scale development," Dr Yutao Du, the Director of BGI Ark Biotechnology Co., LTD. (BAB), an affiliate of BGI focusing on producing transgenic and cloned animals, said.
Peng Peng's history started in 2009 when Chinese scientists from BGI, the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and Shihezi University collected genetic material from a Chinese Merino, according to reports.
Handmade cloning is a simplified technique introduced in 2011 that reduces the need for the sophisticated equipment required in traditional cloning. Scientists cloned cattle, pig, goat and water buffalo with the technique, but Peng Peng is the first transgenic animal produced under the simplified protocol. In October, scientists produced the transgenic sheep embryo via handmade cloning.
The cloned sheep may prove beneficial for human health since it carries a specific gene containing unsaturated fatty acid (ω-3PUFA) which reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases in humans and regulates the functioning of eyes and brain cells, researchers said.
"The birth of Peng Peng means that people could absorb ω-3PUFAs by drinking milk or eating meat in the future," Du said.