By David Derbyshire
Cloning from the grave: Scientists create new life from a mouse that has been frozen for 16 YEARS
Scientists have created clones of a mouse that had been dead and frozen for 16 years.
It is the first time they have been able to clone a frozen animal.
The Japanese researchers say their work will benefit mankind
The latest experiment comes more than 11 years after British scientists stunned the world with Dolly the cloned sheep.
It had been thought that ice crystals destroyed the DNA in frozen cells, making them unusable.
British scientists welcomed the breakthrough.
Professor Malcolm Alison, biologist at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said:
‘While 16 years is not a long time for cells to be frozen – IVF clinics often have viable sperm frozen for longer periods – there are no scientific reasons why extinct animals like mammoths could not be similarly generated.’
The research was carried out by Dr Teruhiko Wakayama and colleagues at the Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan.
Each cell’s nucleus was injected into a hollowed-out egg cell from a female mouse.
When the egg was ‘triggered’ with electricity, it began to divide and grow just like a newly-conceived embryo.
After a few days, the embryo clone was implanted into the womb of a surrogate mouse and three weeks later, the clone was born.
‘These cloned mice did not show any abnormalities and grew to adulthood,’ the researchers report today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today
Cells to be frozen are normally treated with chemicals called cryoprotectants-beforehand, to prevent-damage. But this had not been done on the Japanese mice.
Dr Robin Lovell-Badge of the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research in London
He said: ‘It could be a valuable practical tool – not just for work on animals but on humans as well.
‘There might be human material stored by laboratories that you could work on.
‘If it came from people with genetic diseases, it could help explore the causes of those disease.’
Scientists could potentially create living clones of the ice man ‘Oetzi’, who was frozen 5,300 years ago
The Japanese scientists said the bodies of large animals like mammoths frozen under natural conditions would freeze more slowly, possibly reducing cell damage.
They also suggested that other sources of frozen nuclei, such as white blood cells, might be as useful for cloning as brain tissue.
They added: ‘This would increase the chances of finding tissues in good condition’.