Chinese researchers at the University of Nankai have reportedly developed a method for cloning pigs fully with the help of robots, which could pave the way for automated animal cloning in the future.
In March 2022, a surrogate sow at the university successfully gave birth to seven cloned pigs.
“Every step of the cloning process was automated, and there was no human interference,” said Liu Yaowei, who helped build the technology and method.
The university has previously succeeded in producing piglets cloned using robots, but several components of the procedure still required people, resulting in a wider margin of error.
The team has since improved its algorithms, allowing for a procedure entirely overseen and conducted by robots.
“Our AI-powered system can calculate the strain within a cell and direct the robot to use minimal force to complete the cloning process, which reduces the cell damage caused by human hands,” Liu said.
This breakthrough may give China a much-needed pork supply source. As the world’s largest pork consumer, the country has long relied on importing pigs solely for breeding purposes, which can be expensive.
The Pork Father Pan Dengke, a former researcher with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences who also assisted in producing the country’s first cloned pig in 2015, believes that this new approach might be revolutionary if adequately scaled up.
In comparison to this new technology, he said that somatic cell nuclear transfer – the old cloning method – was more arduous and time-consuming. Pan had previously worked manually to generate over 1,000 clones per day, which had caused him back discomfort due to the difficulties of the conventional procedure.
However, since this new method uses robots, the cloning process’ success rate is significantly higher due to a decreased rate of damaged cells.
This issue has hampered the general use of cloning technologies in the past. Still, it may no longer be an issue if the robotic process proves to be reliable – perhaps even to the point of being developed into cloning kits that organisations can use all over the world.
Source: South China Morning Post