By Charlie Loran • 16 October 2020 • 10:24
Kurt looks and acts like any other young horse, however, Kurt is no ordinary horse he is a clone.
The two-month-old colt is a Przewalski’s horse, a species native to central Asia that once went extinct in the wild and is still critically endangered, with only about 2,000 remaining.
San Diego Zoo Global researchers have high hopes that Kurt can help turn things around for his species. He was cloned from skin cells taken from a stallion in 1980 and safeguarded at the Frozen Zoo, San Diego Zoo Global’s vast repository of 10,000 cell lines from more than 1,100 species and subspecies.
“By ‘bringing cells to life,’ if you will, making an animal out of a cell, we can bring back a portion of the gene pool that would otherwise be lost,” said Oliver Ryder, director of genetics at San Diego Zoo Global.
For 40 years, the stallion’s cells sat frozen in time at minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit, colder than an evening on the planet Mercury.
But now, researchers revived the cells and fused one of them with an unfertilised egg from a domestic horse. Because scientists had removed the egg’s nucleus, the part of a cell that holds its DNA, nearly all of the genetic material came from the stallion.
The team then transplanted the egg back inside the horse, which acted as a surrogate mother. It’s the same method that was famously used to clone Dolly the sheep in 1996 and has since been used to clone cattle, cats, deer, and horses, among other species.
The plan is to eventually bring Kurt to the Safari Park, where he’ll join the park’s 14 Przewalski’s horses as part of a conservation and breeding programme.
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Manchester born mummy with a two year old diva (2020), living on the Costa del Sol for just short of a decade.
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