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Reproduction. 2004 Mar;127(3):317-24.

Wildlife conservation and reproductive cloning.

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  • 1ZSL Institute of Zoology, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK. Bill.Holt@ioz.ac.uk

Abstract

Reproductive cloning, or the production of offspring by nuclear transfer, is often regarded as having potential for conserving endangered species of wildlife. Currently, however, low success rates for reproductive cloning limit the practical application of this technique to experimental use and proof of principle investigations. In this review, we consider how cloning may contribute to wildlife conservation strategies. The cloning of endangered mammals presents practical problems, many of which stem from the paucity of knowledge about their basic reproductive biology. However, situations may arise where resources could be targeted at recovering lost or under-represented genetic lines; these could then contribute to the future fitness of the population. Approaches of this type would be preferable to the indiscriminate generation of large numbers of identical individuals. Applying cloning technology to non-mammalian vertebrates may be more practical than attempting to use conventional reproductive technologies. As the scientific background to cloning technology was pioneered using amphibians, it may be possible to breed imminently threatened amphibians, or even restore extinct amphibian species, by the use of cloning. In this respect species with external embryonic development may have an advantage over mammals as developmental abnormalities associated with inappropriate embryonic reprogramming would not be relevant.

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