Researchers seek to create ‘super buffalo calves’
After its success in cloning the first water buffalo in southeast Asia, Filipino scientists are trying to improve the genetic make up of this animal and even seeing it as an alternative to increase the supply of milk to eventually decrease or eliminate the country’s dependency on dairy imports.
The country is not producing enough milk supply despite the big number of population of buffaloes in the country, said Edwin Atabay, supervising science research specialist at the Philippine Carabao Center (CC) in Munoz.
The carabao is a domesticated subspecies of the water buffalo.
“We are spending around $475 million in importing milk and dairy products, when we have a population of three million carabaos here,” Atabay said.
The joint project of the CC and the Philippine Council on Agriculture and Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) called “cloning through somatic cell nuclear transfer as a tool for genetic improvement in water buffaloes” was born to develop a cloning system that uses somatic cell nuclear transfer technology in water buffalo to produce “super buffalo calves,” said Atabay.He said that the process starts with selection of a buffalo from a superior breed in India, which has the capacity to produce up to 18 liters of milk.
The PCCARD said that somatic cell nuclear transfer is a technique that involves the production of mature cells in vitro.
These cells will be enucleated (i.e., the nucleus will be removed) to become recipient cytoplasts.
In turn, the cell recipient will receive nuclear materials derived from somatic cells, such as from the ear skin of the super buffalo, and will be cultured for 6-7 days in vitro. The resulting embryos will be transferred to surrogate dams to produce clones of the super buffalo.
Animal cloning has been successfully done in many parts of the world. Dolly the sheep, from Scotland, is the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult somatic cell.
In 1998, eight calves from somatic cells of a single adult was successfully clones in Japan.
Atabay said that the Philippines is in equal footing with countries such as India and Thailand, which have been doing cloning activities for a long time.
Atabay said that the PCC and PCARRD programs aim to produce 1,500 buffalo embryos towards the end of the project.
Water buffaloes are an important animal resource primarily used as draft, and secondary as source of meat and milk.
“Water buffaloes are an indispensable component in small livestock production in the local agriculture. Buffalo has to be improved not only as source of draft but more importantly of milk and meat,” he said.
Copyright 2007 The Filipino Express