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WT cloning research advances field

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Amarillo, TX - New research at WTAMU is putting the school at the forefront of genetic engineering.

Scientists at WT are celebrating the successful birth of a cloned calf - their second this year.  And these two recent successes represent major strides toward improving stock lines, and ultimately, our food supply.

The word "cloning" tends to make many people uneasy, but in this sense, "cloning" is really just an expedited form of selective breeding.

"Alpha," a young bull, and "Gamma," a days-old heifer, were recently born using a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer.  In simplest terms, that means putting a reprogrammed cell into a surrogate mother.  The idea is that by systematically improving the gene pool, you can create better and stronger breeds, as WTAMU Associate Professor of Animal Science Dr. Ty Lawrence explains,

"We hope to create a new breed of cattle that currently does not exist.  And this new breed of cattle will be a piece of the best of the best of the best from all existing breeds and their crosses."

By isolating the most desirable traits, researchers can create higher-yield cattle more resistant to drought and disease, as veterinarian Dr. Greg Veneklasen says,

"It's not just about meat; this is about genetic disease, this is about infectious disease.  This is a model that we've created that we can use ... we can use this model for many different things."

And each new model is a step closer toward creating the ideal food animal.

Alpha and Gamma, for instance, are both Yield Grade One Prime beef, which represents about one in 15,000 cattle.

And advances like these are putting WTAMU on the map, as Dr. Don Topliff says,

"This puts us on par with some of the major research universities across the country.  There is no place else in the world that is doing what we're doing with this cloning project."

The Food and Drug Administration approved the consumption of meat from cloned animals in 2008, but is waiting before greenlighting it for sale.

To learn more about cloning, somatic cell nuclear transfer, or what critics say, follow the associated links.

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