Hong Kong (CNN) — Researchers in China have succeeded in cloning a wild arctic wolf, and they hope the controversial gene technique can now be used to help save other threatened species as the world nears extinction crisis. is reaching.
On Monday, Beijing-based Cinogen Biotechnology unveiled a female wolf clone – named by scientists Maya – on June 10, 100 days after her birth.
The company said Maya, a brownish-brown puppy with a bushy tail, is in good health. During a press conference, he showed a video of Maya playing and resting.
“After two years of painstaking efforts, Arctic Wolf was successfully cloned. This is the first such case in the world,” Mi Jidong, the company’s general manager, said at the press conference, according to Chinese state media.
The arctic wolf, also known as the white wolf or polar wolf, is a subspecies of gray wolf native to the tundra of the High Arctic in the Arctic Archipelago of northern Canada. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), its conservation status, a metric used to determine how close a species is to extinction, is considered low risk, as its Arctic habitat keeps predators away. Too far to do. But their food supply is threatened by climate change, and human development, such as roads and pipelines, is encroaching on their territory.
According to a statement posted on Twitter-like Weibo platforms, Cinogen launched its Arctic Wolf cloning project in 2020 in collaboration with the Harbin Polarland Polar Theme Park.
To create Maya, the company used a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer, the same technique used to create the first mammalian clone in history, Dolly the Sheep, in 1996.
First, they used a skin sample from a native arctic wolf, also known as a maya, brought from Canada to Harbin Polarland to obtain “donor cells,” which were then injected into the egg of a female dog. and carried in the womb. ,
Scientists succeeded in creating 85 such embryos, which were transferred to the womb of seven beagleLeading to the birth of a healthy arctic wolf, the newly cloned Maya, according to state media.
The company said in its Weibo post that a second clone Arctic Wolf is expected to be born soon.
“Cloning technology provides a good entry point for the protection of endangered wild animals, which is a major contribution to the conservation of biodiversity,” said He Zhenming, director of the National Institute of Food and Drug’s Laboratory Animal Resources Institute. Control of China in Weibo Post.
He said the successful cloning of the Maya was a “historic event that was of great importance for the protection of the world’s wildlife and the restoration of endangered species,” according to the publication.
Cinogen said it will begin working with Beijing Wildlife Park to research more cloning techniques and applications, as well as research on the conservation and breeding of rare and endangered animals in China.
According to the Global Times, the original Maya wolf died of old age in 2021. The cloned wolf now lives with its surrogate mother spyAnd later it will be placed in Harbin Polarland, open to the public.
This is not the first time that conservation scientists have used cloning techniques.
In Malaysia, where all Sumatran rhinos have died out, scientists hope to use frozen tissue and cells to give birth to new rhinos using surrogate mothers. And in late 2020, US scientists successfully cloned an endangered wild black-footed ferret, which is considered extinct around the world.
Other scientists are betting on gene-editing techniques, and a team in Australia is trying to edit cells from a marsupial to recreate its close relative, the extinct Tasmanian tiger.
These efforts are growing as scientists around the world scramble to save the endangered species, as Earth approaches its sixth mass extinction.
There have been five mass extinction events in history, each destroying 70% to 95% of plant, animal and microbial species. Most recently, 66 million years ago, the dinosaurs disappeared.
This sixth mass extinction will be unique in that it is driven by humans, who have already wiped out hundreds of species through the wildlife trade, pollution, habitat loss and use of toxic substances.
According to a 2020 study, nearly a third of all plants and animals could be at risk of extinction by 2070, and things could get worse if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise sharply.
But many of these new conservation efforts have sparked controversy with questions about the ethical and health implications of cloning and gene editing.
In the case of Maya, a scientist told the Global Times that more research is needed to determine whether cloning poses potential health risks. He said more regulations are also needed to determine the appropriate use of technology, such as cloning only extinct or endangered species.