The calf, delivered by Caesarian section at 11 a.m. April 22, is alive and healthy today.
The breakthrough has the potential to revolutionize beef cattle production. It can allow producers to select cells from the highest quality meat, after it has been graded, to clone animals to stock their herds.
"This research has tremendous implications for the livestock industry," said Mike Wanner, president of ProLinia, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company in Athens.
"Genetics represent the boundary of what an animal can ultimately become," Wanner said. "Producers will be able to go into a processing plant after the meat is graded, select the best beef on the line and use those genetics to develop and improve their herd.
"In a sense," he said, "they will be able to see what kind of quality beef they can produce before they make their investment."
'Tool for Researchers
The process will also allow researchers to study the roles of genetics and environment in beef production. The centuries-old "nature-nurture" debate is being tested in the UGA laboratories.
"Genetics plays a critical role in the ultimate quality of the meat we eat," said Steve Stice, professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He's also the chief scientific officer at ProLinia.
"Equally important are the animal husbandry practices used, like the quality of feed provided," Stice said.
"Some traits are more heritable than others," he said. "We believe that production and meat-quality traits like marbling and tenderness are readily passed on to an animal's offspring and, in this case, the animal's clone.
"This science will give us an opportunity to prove our theories," he said. "And ultimately, ranchers and meat producers will be given a tool to produce more consistent, higher-quality meat."
48 Hours After Slaughter
Genetic material for the clone was taken from the cow's kidney area, a part routinely left with the side of beef in processing, about 48 hours after the cow had been slaughtered in a local commercial facility.
The cells were processed for transport and cloned in a UGA-ProLinia lab. The ProLinia scientific team, under the direction of John Gibbons and Wash Respess, performed a similar process with cells from the intercostal region (between the ribs) and cells from the end of the front leg.
Beef Processing Not Disrupted
"It was important that we did not modify the processing of the beef," Wanner said. "We wanted to develop a procedure that had little or no disruption to the meat processors' routine.
"Processors don't have the luxury of modifying their practice after the beef receives a favorable grade," he said. "We needed to use cells from parts that remain with the saleable meat."
KC for Kidney Cell
The female calf, named KC for "kidney cell," is an Angus-Hereford cross sometimes called a "Black Baldy."
The surgical team that delivered the calf at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine was led by Fred Caldwell, DVM. Amelia Woolums, DVM, led the UGA medical team that cared for the calf after delivery.
Stice is one of the world's leading cloning researchers. In the summer of 2001, he and his ProLinia team pioneered a technique that virtually tripled the success rate for calf cloning, from one in 20 successful births to one in seven.
The results of that process were eight calves with an age variance spanning eight months, all clones of a single cow. He produced the first cloned transgenic calves in 1998 and holds U.S. patents on cloning processes and animal embryonic stem cells.
UGA Patent, ProLinia License
The technology developed for producing this cloned calf will be patented by UGA and exclusively licensed by ProLinia. Sponsored research and licensing agreements with the UGA Research Foundation provide ProLinia (www.prolinia.com) access to UGA's state-of-the-art labs and demonstration production facilities.
(Kim Carlyle is the national media coordinator for the University of Georgia Office of Public Affairs.)