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Cloned bull could contribute to development of disease-resistant African cattle

Cloned Boran bull and his offspring

Tumaini, ILRI’s cloned bull, and his offspring (photo credit: ILRI).

A new note in a scientific journal gives an update on long-term research to develop African cattle resistant to the African animal disease known as trypanosomiasis. The aim of this research is to help reduce widespread poverty and hunger on the continent by improving livestock livelihoods. This research is being conducted by an alliance of international partners, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) of the University of Edinburgh (The Roslin Institute), ILRI and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC); and the City University of New York.

The research described in this publication is part of a collaborative project led by Jayne Raper, of the City University of New York, and was funded by the Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program of the US National Science Foundation.

Excerpts from the science note follow.

‘Kenyan Boran, an indigenous East African zebu (Bos indicus) breed, is kept mostly for beef production in semi-arid areas of Kenya. The breed is well adapted to high ambient temperature, poor quality feed and high disease challenges compared to European exotic Bos taurus breeds.

‘However, they are susceptible to African tsetse fly-transmitted trypanosomiasis (ATT) caused by parasites (Trypanosoma spp.), which are also the cause of human African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness. The ATT is a major constraint to livestock production in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘It is known that serum from baboons kills both animal- and human-infective African trypanosomes through serum trypanosome lytic factors (TLFs).

The generation of trypanosomiasis-resistant transgenic cattle carrying baboon-derived TLFs may have the potential to improve livestock productivity in Kenya and Africa.

‘As a precursor to such a study, we cloned a Kenyan Boran bull by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) using primary embryonic fibroblasts. This successful cloning represents an important first step towards the establishment of genetically modified Kenyan Boran through SCNT with genome-modified fibroblasts. . . .

‘Two calves were born after introducing the cloned bull to a female Boran herd. . . .

With the boom of genome editing tools, for example transcription activator-like effector nucleases and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/Cas9, there are unprecedented opportunities for improving livestock genetics efficiently through the introduction of superior traits between breeds by precise genome modification.

The successful cloning of a Kenyan Boran bull has opened the possibility of making genetically modified Kenyan Boran with foreign genes or desired traits through genome editing at the fibroblast level followed by SCNT.

Download the open access article
Mingyan Yu (ILRI and the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) of the University of Edinburgh, ILRI and Scotland’s Rural College), Charity Muteti (ILRI and CTLGH), M Ogugo (ILRI and CTLGH), WA Ritchie (Roslin Embryology), J Raper (City University of New York) and Stephen Kemp (ILRI and CTLGH), Cloning of the African indigenous cattle breed Kenyan Boran, Animal Genetics, 2016.

More about this project

Re-engineering cattle to fight disease, by Jayne Raper, TEDxCUNY, 14 Mar 2016

ILRI News blog
New advances in the battle against a major disease threat to cattle and people in Africa, 1 May 2013

ILRI Clippings blog
DID YOU MISS IT? Who’s developing African cattle resistant to sleeping sickness—and why it matters—by Tamar Haspel, 26 Dec 2015

ILRI website

National Science Foundation

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) on original breakthrough in this research project (2009 paper)

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