03:30 PM ET 03/12/97

Australians mass-produce embryo clones - magazine

	(Release at 7:01 p.m. EST)
	    LONDON (Reuter) - Australian researchers have created more
than 400 cattle clones from embryos and say it is a first step
toward mass-producing identical farm animals, New Scientist
magazine reported Thursday.
	    They did not use the technique used to create the
controversial Dolly from an adult sheep in Scotland, but
slightly older technology involving the duplication of embryos.
	    But Alan Trounson of Monash University in Clayton, Victoria,
told the magazine they might be able to use the method of the
Scottish developers of Dolly to clone hundreds of genetically
identical adult animals.
	    ``We are developing a production process for genetically
identical embryos,'' Bernie Harford of Genetics Australia, which
is working with Trounson's group, said.
	    The researchers produce calf embryos using standard
test-tube technology and let them grow a bit into a ball of
cells known as a blastocyst. They then separate cells out and
fuse them with eggs that have had their nucleus removed to
create new embryos.
	    These embryos are grown and separated again and again to
create a whole line of little clones -- 470 at last count.
	    ``We don't know of any other group being able to produce
that many healthy cloned embryos,'' Harford told New Scientist.
	    None of the Australian embryonic clones has been implanted
into a cow and successfully grown into a fetus, let alone a
calf. The Dolly researchers have created six sheep clones using
this method -- starting with Megan and Moran, born a year ago.
	    Clone researchers say the technology can benefit medicine
and animal science. The Scottish researchers want to use their
clones to create genetically engineered animals for use in
producing medicine.
	    The Australian researchers say they want to use their
technology to create a reliable herd of prize cattle. Currently
farmers will breed from one prize bull over and over again, but
offspring vary in quality depending on the mothers.
	    Cloning would allow for guaranteed elite livestock.