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Scientists clone first Hungarian mouse using live cumulus cells

Scientists cloned a mouse using live body cells in Hungary for the first time after three years of research, the professor leading the team said on Friday.

The group of 20 scientists at the Agricultural Biotechnology Center in Gödöllő, northeast of Budapest, used cumulus cells, which surround the developing eggs in the ovaries of female mice, as the donor to clone the mouse named Klonilla. „This is the fruit of three years of hard work and is the success of the whole team,” András Dinnyés, who led the project at the Agricultural Biotechnology Center, said in a telephone interview. „It's important that people understand that science, including biotechnology, is not an ivory tower, but is part of our everyday life.”
In cloning, researchers take a cell from the body of the mammal and inject its nucleus into an egg cell whose own nucleus has been removed. Because the nucleus contains the genetic blueprint of the individual from whom it was taken, the resulting embryo will be genetically identical. Cloning can be used for reproduction or to create healthy tissues for therapy. Dinnyés also led a team in 2000-2001 that cloned the first pig in Europe at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, where Dolly the sheep was cloned a decade ago. Klonilla, born November 6, was the second mouse scientists cloned after the first animal was eaten by its „stepmother,” Dinnyés said.

Since Dolly, scientists have cloned about 13 species of animals, including mice, goats, cats and cattle, according to Dinnyés. Klonilla is the first animal cloned in Hungary. The project was supported by the European Union and the Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest charitable trust, while less than 10% of the funding came from local institutions. „Hungary's first cloned mouse represents a significant milestone for research in the country and in eastern Europe,” Sohaila Rastan, director of science funding at the Wellcome Trust, said in an e-mail. „We are always keen to support scientific excellence in pursuit of its mission to foster and support research with the aim of improving human and animal health.”
Hungary's scientific research fund, the National Office for Research and Technology and the Agriculture Ministry also supported the project, he said. Scientists are developing general systems to help cure diseases, Dinnyés said, adding that cloned rabbits can help treat cardiovascular diseases and cystic fibrosis among others, while rats can assist in treating illnesses of the nervous system. His team already has funding to clone rabbits and rats, he said.

A study of about 1,800 cloning efforts published in the journal Nature Genetics last month found that mature blood cells may work about 10 times better than stem cells. Two mice were born from the mature cells, according to the study conducted at the University of Connecticut. If replicated in other labs, the discovery might make it easier for researchers to clone new cell lines that genetically match an individual person. That may help grow tissue or develop drugs to treat some organs damaged by injury or disease, such as Parkinson's or diabetes, the University of Connecticut team said. (Bloomberg)