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Maya was born, the first wild arctic wolf clone

A Chinese biotech company has cloned for the first time a specimen of the arctic wolf, an animal listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a threatened species, state media reported.

The cloning, the result of two years of research, was announced by the company Sinogene Biotechnology one hundred days after the birth of the animal, a wolf called “Maya” that according to those responsible for the project is in good health in a laboratory of the firm located in Jiangsu province (east).

The donor cell was obtained from a skin sample of a female arctic wolf of Canadian origin, the oocyte came from a dog whose breed has not been specified and the pregnancy was developed by another female Beagle dog, explained the deputy director of Sinogene, Zhao Jianping.

Scientists implanted a total of 85 embryos in the wombs of seven Beagle bitches, Zhao said, adding that the choice of a dog to gestate the clone is due to the genetic similarities between the two species.

According to the director of the company, Mi Jidong, quoted by the official Global Times newspaper, this is the first case in the world of cloning an arctic wolf.

“Maya” will be transferred in some time to Harbon Polarland, a theme park in the province of Heilongjiang (northeast), where initially the rest of the arctic wolves that live there will not be incorporated due to the possibility that it will not adapt to herd coexistence.

Experts quoted by the Chinese newspaper pointed out that the success of this cloning project opens the door to the artificial reproduction of other animals threatened or at risk of extinction to guarantee the survival of these species by increasing their population.

Sinogene also announced that it plans an agreement with the Beijing Wildlife Park to continue researching the applications of cloning technology in the breeding and conservation of endangered wildlife.

Faced with the success of the project, other scientists have raised objections about cloning and the technical and ethical problems that this type of procedure poses.

Sun Quanhui, a scientist attached to the World Organization for the Protection of Animals, told the Global Times that despite the advances in cloning technology in recent years, there is still much to be investigated in aspects such as the possible health risks associated with cloned animals.

Sun also raised under what circumstances it is permissible to clone animals or how cloning affects biodiversity, and argued that this technique should be applied only in the case of species on the verge of extinction, or those that are already extinct in the wild and of the Only specimens survive in captivity.

China has previously made announcements about advances in cloning technology, a field in which it has seen milestones such as the 2018 birth of two genetically identical primates, cloned using the same technique used on the famous Dolly the sheep.

In 2019, the country was plunged into a strong controversy generated by the Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who claimed that he had managed to create the first genetically manipulated babies to resist HIV.

The revelation and subsequent uproar prompted Chinese authorities to open an investigation that led to a three-year prison sentence for He, who was released from jail last April.

The scandal prompted Chinese authorities to review their regulations on human genetic modification, which now require nationwide approval for clinical research in that field or in other “high-risk biomedical technologies.”

Last March, the Chinese government also published new guidelines to reform ethical review processes in areas such as life sciences, medicine or artificial intelligence.

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