China-born scientist Xiangzhong “Jerry” Yang (楊湘中), best known for cloning the first farm animal in the US, has died after a battle with cancer, the University of Connecticut said on Friday. He was 49.
Yang cloned a calf named Amy at the University of Connecticut in 1999, three years after a sheep named Dolly was cloned in the UK.
After Amy, Yang did research for an attempt to clone a human embryo, which experts hoped would create stem cells, the material that could one day repair tissue damage, replace organs and reverse degenerative diseases, the University of Connecticut said in a statement.
Yang, who was first diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland in 1996, died on Thursday at the Brigham Young Women’s Center hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, university spokesman David Bauman said.
His research helped determine that cloned farm animals were safe to eat and also helped explain how old cells can become young again when fused into embryos or eggs stripped of DNA, the university said.
Yang was born in rural China and survived famines in 1959 and 1960.
At the end of China’s Cultural Revolution he took a college entrance exam and left the farm where he tended pigs to enter the prestigious Beijing Agricultural University.
He later pursued a college degree in the US.