Don't expect the new year to bring news of more copy cats from Texas A&M University. Genetic Savings and Clone has withdrawn its funding from the university, halting the school's efforts to clone cats and dogs.
Genetic Savings and Clone was formed three years ago by businessman John Sperling, who wanted to clone his dog, a mixed breed named Missy. Texas A&M, with funding from the company, successfully created a cloned cat (see JAVMA, April 1, 2002, page 949) but had little success cloning a dog. Researchers were able to achieve only one canine conception, and that embryo didn't make it to term.
"There are no repeatable protocols for estrus synchronization; therefore, we ... have to rely on natural reproductive cycles," commented Dr. Mark Westhusin, lead investigator on the Texas A&M project, who points out that dogs are only in heat twice a year. In addition, protocols for obtaining large numbers of mature, viable canine ova, needed for nuclear transfer, are not available in the dog. These procedures are established in cats.
Genetic Savings and Clone hopes for future success and plans to seek industrial partnerships to continue its project. Texas A&M's part in the project, however, is finished.
"Most of our efforts are currently focused on cattle and white-tailed deer," Dr. Westhusin said. "Some involves basic science targeted at understanding why the great majority of cloned embryos fail to develop normally, and other work involves trying to produce offspring. For the time being, we will not be conducting any work in cats and dogs, but we may pursue this in the future."