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CNN Today

Cloning Experiment Ends in Disappointment

Aired January 12, 2001 - 2:43 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A successful cloning experiment has apparently had a very disappointing ending. On Monday, a baby Asian ox, called a gaur, was born. We told you about this experiment before.

This was a hallmark event in genetic sciences, because this was the first time scientists successfully cloned an endangered species. But later in the week, Noah, the tiny ox, died.

Our science correspondent Ann Kellan has been following this story closely. You were here to tell us about it and...

ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were anticipating this, right?

ALLEN: So this -- is this considered a success or no, or a little bit of both?

KELLAN: I think it is considered a success. You can think there were hundreds of attempts made to do this, and everybody was very anxious to see this birth happen, and they really wanted to have a successful birth. So let's take a look at Noah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLAN (voice-over): Noah, born by C-section on a farm near Sioux City, Iowa, is the world's first cloned endangered species.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we were all terribly excited when he was born. He was born, you know, totally alive, healthy. He was kicking around, bellowing. I mean, he was absolutely adorable: there with his big blue eyes, his ears twitching. He was just like a little baby reindeer.

KELLAN: Though his birth was a success, Noah died two days later of dysentery. Researchers do not link that infection to the cloning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then, a day later, he developed a bacterial infection that's almost universally fatal in newborn animals, and we, of course, had been following Noah with hope for almost a year. So you know, we're all, of course, very deeply saddened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still in shock to try to figure out what was going on with the calf.

KELLAN: Noah was a gaur, a wild ox native to Southeast Asia and India. There are only about 30,000 left in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite this setback, you know, we feel that Noah's birth does usher in a new era for conservation biology. We still certainly have a long way to go, but as this new technology evolves, we believe that it has the potential to rescue dozens of species teetering on the verge of extinction.

KELLAN: As a clone, Noah was an exact duplicate of a gaur that died eight years ago. Its skin cells had been frozen and stored in a so-called "frozen zoo," where cells of other endangered and extinct species are kept.

Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology took the DNA from one of those cells, inserted it into the egg cell of a cow, then implanted it in this cow, Bessie, Noah's surrogate mother. Bessie is doing fine. Her work might not be done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And actually, we're thinking of putting another embryo back into Bessie, because of the fact that she did carry this calf to term.

KELLAN: Even though Noah didn't survive, scientists do consider the pregnancy and birth a success and hope this breakthrough will lead to cloning other species, like pandas or cheetahs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KELLAN: Already they are looking to clone an extinct species of bucardo. The Spanish government has given the approval, and if all goes well, they say that the bucardo could be born before another gaur is born, because the gestation period is shorter for a bucardo, which is a mountain goat from Spain. And it's newly extinct. So they do have the cells and they're right along with this.

ALLEN: It's getting very interesting.

KELLAN: It is interesting.

ALLEN: Thank you.

KELLAN: And we'll follow the progress on that.

ALLEN: All right. You come back and tell us how it goes.

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