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5-Animals: Cloned pigs behave just like, well, pigs

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SOURCE: Texas A&M University, USA, by Edith A. Chenault
DATE:   Dec 26, 2002

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COLLEGE STATION  They behaved just like pigs. Or at least, that's what a 
study of cloned pigs found at Texas A&M University.

The behavior of cloned pigs, produced last year at Texas A&M, were compared 
to pigs bred normally. The recent study was completed by master's of 
science student Greg Archer, under the supervision of Dr. Ted Friend, 
professor of applied ethology in the department of animal science.

"We found the variation within a litter of clones to be as variable or 
greater (than the normal litters) at least 80 percent of the time for all 
the tests that we did," Archer said.

In other words, they were pretty much regular litters of pigs, he said.

Two litters of cloned pigs was compared to two litters of "control" pigs in 
tests that measured the variation in food preference, temperament and how 
pigs spend their time. Archer also compared their weight, shoulder width, 
nose to tail length, growth rate and other physical characteristics.

What Archer found was the cloned pigs' behavior was just as variable as the 
control group of pigs in just about every way. They played, ate, slept, 
fought and responded to outside stimuli with the same range of behavior as 
the others. Even their physical characteristics  compared using body 
measurements and blood serum tests  were similar to the control group in 
variation. And that means there was variation between the cloned pigs.

"A litter of pigs is just as variable as another litter of pigs. They're 
not more uniform," he said.

Even though the cloned pigs may be exact genetic replicas of the parent, 
it's believed variations can come from the environment and epigenetic 
factors, causing the DNA "line up" differently, he said. Epigenetic 
phenomenon is defined as any gene-regulating activity that doesn't involve 
changes to the DNA code and that persists through one or more generations, 
he said. That may explain why abnormalities such as fetal death occur in 
cloned species, he added.

"When cells start dividing, sometimes the DNA changes the way it lines up. 
So, even though the pigs have the same genetic type, it might not be lined 
up in the same order," he said.

Archer said that's throwing some doubt on the theory that if a pet, or any 
animal, is cloned, its progeny will be exact duplicates. "You're not going 
to get your exact pet," Archer said. "You're going to get one close to it, 
but it's not going to be exact."

Friend said even though animals are not exact duplicates, "All of the other 
potential uses for cloned animals are still there, waiting to be further 
developed and tested. We did not know what type of behavioral variability 
would be found until this study was completed."

Other potential uses of cloning are organ transplants to humans, production 
of drugs, and improvement of certain characteristics of livestock, Friend 

Archer, a native of Baltimore, Md., received his bachelor's degree in 
animal science from Virginia Tech University.


Writer: Edith A. Chenault, (+1-979) 845-2886,
Contact: Dr. Ted Friend, (+1-979) 845-845-5265,

Agricultural Communications
Texas A&M University
2112 TAMUS
College Station, TX 77843-2112


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