Iran Scientists Use Animal Cloning to Create Sheep, Died Minutes After Birth

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 9, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Iran Scientists Use Animal Cloning to Create Sheep, Died Minutes After Birth Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 9, 2006

Tehran, Iran ( — Scientists in Iran celebrated the birth of a cloned lamb, the first birth in their animal cloning program, but the sheep died minutes later. The researchers said they would push on with more cloning experiments despite the failure.

Iran hopes to become a regional center for science and technology in the Middle East and their nuclear programs have drawn international scrutiny and criticism.

Dr. Morteza Hosseini, a member of the team of cloning scientists at the Isfahan Royan Institute told the Associated Press "We learned a lot about cloning during the experiment. It made us more hopeful about further cases."

The cloning of the sheep came only after Hosseini’s team had months of unsuccessful attempts cloning cows and mice.

He indicated the cloned sheep died 5 minutes after its birth on August 2 because of respiratory problems. The mother sheep gave birth a week ahead of scheduled and was in health condition, Hosseini indicated.

More animal cloning experiments are expected in the coming months.

"We are not yet satisfied with our efforts. We will continue until we produce a clone that survives," Reza Samani, the Royan Institute’s public affairs officer, told the London Guardian newspaper.

"We tried with a cow and the process was almost successful, but the gestation was so long that the mother miscarried. Work with the sheep is at a more advanced level," he added.

According to AP, Iran’s ruling Islamic government, led by Shiite Muslims, has issued religious decrees sanctioning animal cloning but prohibiting cloning experiments on humans. However, Sunni Muslim clerics oppose both human and animal cloning.

Dolly the sheep was both the first cloned lamb and mammal and was created by British scientists 10 years ago. The cloning took place at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh and she was a genetic replica of a six-year-old Finn Dorset lamb.
However, Dolly was condemned by many observers as a complete failure in cloning science.

Dolly was finally created after 300 failed attempts, resulting in miscarriages and malformed offspring. Ultimately, the "successful" result, Dolly, aged too rapidly and had to be euthanized.

Those poor results, and the number of dog embryos that had to be killed to create Snuppy in South Korea, concern pro-life advocates who say that any human cloning attempts will undoubtedly result in the death of hundreds, if not thousands, of unborn children.

Dr. Susan Meyer, of the research and campaign group GeneWatch UK, told the BBC that the promise of animal cloning is overstated. She called it "an inefficient technique."

"It goes wrong so often, we’ve gained a lot of knowledge about how cells differentiate and how organisms grow but we haven’t reached these expectations which were generated — the hype and the promise about personalized treatments," she explained.

"I think it is time to reflect a bit about whether we aren’t getting too carried away," she told the BBC.