Genetically modified rabbit 'stable'

By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-12-20 07:35

SHANGHAI: A rabbit cloned by scientists here and touted as the world's first to possess a foreign gene that can help in research on human diseases, has successfully survived for three months, researchers said on Tuesday.

Cloned by a team at the Shanghai Jiaotong University medical school, the genetically modified animal, which carries a green fluorescent protein, was confirmed to have passed molecular biological identification and is currently in a stable condition at the medical school.

The green protein was extracted from a type of jellyfish and planted into a single rabbit cell, which grew into an embryo. This was then transplanted into a surrogate mother rabbit.

Chen Xuejin, the leader of the team that carried out the project, said: "Exogenous green fluorescent protein found in the cells of the rabbit can help study the relationship between certain genes and diseases."

The team had conducted several previous attempts at cloning rabbits but the animals did not survive for long, he said.

The successful cloning of the genetically modified rabbit will serve as a model for the mass cloning of rabbits in the future, Chen said.

Scientists have said the cloning of genetically modified rabbits will pave the way for the cloning of other animals with different human disease genes so as to aid research on medicines and genetic diseases that affect humans.

Li Jiyu, director of the science and education department of Shanghai Xihua Hospital, said: "In the future, we will be able to transplant or extract disease genes and blood genes from cloned animals, which will help us better understand the links between human genes and certain diseases."

Since the first cloned sheep Dolly was born in 1996, scientists have succeeded in cloning mice, cattle and pigs.

However, it was only in 2002 that a group of French scientists produced the world's first cloned rabbit using cells from an adult female.

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