The nation's first transgenic cloned animal, a female goat, and her four-month-old male goat were displayed to the public yesterday by the Council of Agriculture, which said they were proof of Taiwan's ability to create genetically modified livestock for the production of medicines for human consumption.
The director of the council's Livestock Research Institute, Wang Cheng-taung (王政騰), said that the 18-month-old mother, named Paoyu, is carrying a foreign gene provided by National Taiwan University.
Last November, researchers mated Paoyu with a male goat to see if the goat's mammary glands could reproduce the human gene encoding coagulation factor VIII, which would be useful for patients suffering from hemophilia A.
On April 25, Paoyu gave birth to a male goat. The coagulation factor VIII gene was discovered to be present in the goat.
"Our recent research results suggest that not only transgenic cloned goats have the ability to propagate, but also that the foreign gene carried in this animal is hereditary," Wang said.
The institute's achievement marks a milestone in the development of animal biotechnology in Taiwan. The technology used in cloning goats could eventually be used not only to improve features of livestock but also to create genetically modified livestock as bioreactors for clinical medicines.
Chen Chuan-mu (
"Producing coagulation factor VIII in the goat's mammary gland rather than in human blood could provide a cheaper and safer method," Chen said.
Institute deputy director Lee Shan-nan (李善男) said that no other researchers had reported on production of coagulation factor VIII in goats. He said the project was a team effort involving scientists from the institute, National Taiwan University, National Chung Hsing University and National Pingtung University of Science and Technology. The research team is applying for a genetics patent in the US.
Lee said that hemophilia A patients need 300g of coagulation factor VIII each year, which costs US$870 million. Local researchers are working on ways of increasing the concentration of the gene encoding coagulation factor VIII in the milk of cloned goats. In each cubic centimeter of Paoyu's milk, for example, there are only 15 micrograms of coagulation factor VIII.
Premier Frank Hsieh (