- SEOUL (Reuters) -- A group
of South Korean scientists have cloned cows they believe are resistant
to the deadly mad cow disease and will test the animals in Japan for five
years, the leader of the research team said.
- Professor Hwang Woo-suk at Seoul National University,
who led the team, told Reuters the group had duplicated with cows an experiment
conducted in creating genetically altered mice with resistance to bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
- BSE, or mad cow disease, is thought to spread when cattle
are fed meat-and-bone meal containing brains, spines and other materials
from cattle that contain an infectious version of a protein called a variant
- Hwang said a South Korean-led group of 130 researchers
at teams in his country, Japan and the United States had cloned four calves
with high levels of prions, making them resistant to BSE.
- "The calves were cloned by inserting certain somatic
cells with an abnormally high number of prions into a cow's eggs, whose
nuclei had already been removed, and by cultivating the eggs in surrogate
cows," he said in an interview in Seoul.
- Previous overseas studies had so far proved mice with
abnormally high levels of prions were resistant to BSE.
- To test the possible breakthrough, and confirm the cows
are actually resistant to mad cow disease, the cloned calves would undergo
"invivo challenge testing" at research facilities in Tsukuba,
Japan, Hwang said.
- "The four calves and some more to be born from the
surrogate mother cows will be sent to Japan early next year to be fed agents
that cause BSE," he said.
- The breeding of genetically altered cattle resistant
to mad cow disease would be a world first, Hwang said. South Korea had
applied for international patents, he added.
- Korea has no confirmed mad cow disease cases. But Hwang
said he had started the study to prevent any possibility that the disease
could hit the country and destroy local livestock industry.
- Japan confirmed its ninth case of mad cow disease in
November since the September 2001 discovery of Japan's -- and Asia's --
first case of the brain-wasting illness.
- "I hope that people around the world can eat steak
without any concern of mad cow disease in the future," Hwang said.
- About 100 people, mainly in Europe, have died after contracting
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare and fatal BSE-related disease thought
to be caused by eating tainted meat.
- There is no cure for any form of the CJD disease and
they are always fatal. BSE decimated Britain's cattle population and has
spread to several countries, including Switzerland.
- - Additional report by Kim Yeon-hee
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