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Posted 10.26.04

New Finding Shows Compromised Immune Response in Cloned Pigs

COLUMBIA, Mo. University of Missouri-Columbia researchers have found for the first time a functional problem with the immune system in cloned animals, a development that could explain the higher death rate in cloned animals and lead to improved success in keeping these animals alive. Cloned animals are vital in a variety of research applications from treating deadly diseases to xenotransplantation, the process that makes organ transplants between animals and humans possible.

Former MU researcher Bart Carter, along with animal physiologist Jeff Carroll of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service (ARS), collaborated with Scott Korte, MU research fellow in veterinary pathobiology, and Randall Prather, distinguished professor of reproductive biology, to examine innate immune responses in cloned miniature swine compared to similar, naturally born animals.

"Over the years researchers everywhere have observed unexplained losses in cloned animals," Carter said. "Compared to natural animals, cloned animals haven't responded as well to traditional treatments for bacterial infections. We wondered why the success rates weren't as high in cloned animals."

Carter and his colleagues performed tests on seven cloned miniature swine against a control group of 11 naturally born miniature swine. Each animal was 28 days old. Researchers injected identical doses of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a bacterial component that triggers specific reactions in the immune system, into each swine. Blood samples were drawn to monitor cytokine levels, or chemical signals that cause symptoms of illness sent out by cells in the presence of LPS.

The data indicated the immune response in the cloned animals was significantly lower than in their naturally born counterparts, making this the first study to document such a result.

"Given the findings observed in this study, one could conclude that the innate immune response was indeed compromised in these cloned pigs," Carter said. "This conclusion is supported by the results of previous studies in which neonatal deaths of cloned animals are attributed to bacterial infections."

Carter said the results will be a significant contribution toward understanding, preventing or reducing the incidence of perinatal and early postnatal deaths in cloned animals. He suggests a more in-depth evaluation and testing of innate immunity in cloned animals are needed.

All of the research was conducted in Columbia, Mo. Carter now works at Kansas State University. Carroll now works at the ARS unit in Lubbock, Texas.


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