GENET archive


5-Animals: Bull Herman - first GE animal - euthanized in the Netherlands

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Genetically manipulated bull Herman euthanized in Netherlands
        Carried a human gene
SOURCE: Associated Press, by Toby Sterling
DATE:   Apr 2, 2004

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Genetically manipulated bull Herman euthanized in Netherlands
Carried a human gene

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands  Herman the Bull, the world's first farm animal 
carrying a human gene, was euthanized Friday because he was suffering from 
a form of arthritis, his caretakers said.  

He was 13, not exceptionally old for a bull. His ailment was unrelated to 
his genetic manipulation, said the Naturalis museum in Leiden where Herman 
spent his final years.

A human gene was spliced into Herman's genetic code while in an early 
embryonic stage in 1990, in the hope that milk produced by his female 
offspring would bear a human milk protein. The process was cutting-edge at 
the time, but has since been refined and is commonly used.

The experiment was only a partial success. Milk from Herman's descendants 
contained the proteins, but at such low levels it wasn't commercially 
worthwhile to extract them.

A spokesman for the Naturalis museum said the animal's joints had become 
almost completely blocked with growths.

"He was always well-kept and happy, but you could see toward the end that 
he was in pain," Hans Dautzenberg said. "He avoided moving his knees and 
when he laid down, he stayed down for a long time."

Dolly the sheep, the world's first mammal cloned from an adult, had also 
suffered from arthritis and was euthanized in 2003, well short of her 
normal lifespan, after being diagnosed with a progressive lung disease.

Pharming NV, the company that modified Herman, underwent financial 
restructuring in 2001.

Herman's 55 offspring were slaughtered after the experiment concluded, and 
he was bound for the same fate until a television program screened footage 
showing him licking a kitten.

A public outcry ensued, led by animal rights activists, which saved him. 
He eventually won a bill of clemency from parliament, though he was 
ordered castrated. He lived on a farm for years until funding for his care 
ran out in 2002. He was then moved to a special display pen at Naturalis 
to help cover costs.

He was not allowed out of his pen until Friday, when he was taken to a 
veterinary hospital in Utrecht to be euthanized. But two cloned cows, 
Holly and Belle, kept him company in his final years.

Dautzenberg said Herman's skin will be saved and put into storage, in case 
the museum wants to have him stuffed and put on display.

The 2,500-pound bull was a cross between two Dutch breeds, the Zwartbont 
Holstein Frisian and Groninger Blaarkop.

In an interview with the Associated Press in 2002, Herman's keeper Marije 
de Vos said he had a fondness for music.

De Vos said he listened to a rap station "around the clock."

"It makes Herman calm," she said.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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