Breakthrough in gene engineering
First transgenic animals have been produced by the animal breeding institute of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences by implanting human genes in goat’s DNA. A group of Belarusian and Russian scientists managed to get the first offspring from goats, which had had genetically modified embryos implanted
Two he-goats and one she-goat were born in the institute’s biotechnologies center. However, the she-goat did not survive, while the two he-goats are feeling well and have no disease symptoms or anomalies. Specialists say “Getting transgenic male animals is 10 times more valuable than females”.
Now the institute’s biotechnologies center continues implanting human genes into goat embryos. Eight animals have successfully undergone the operation. This year will see many more operations to get at least 100 implanted goats, said the director of the institute, Academician Ivan Sheiko.
According to him, since early this year the biotechnologies center has carried out over 80 most complicated operations to process 40 genetic constructs implanted in goat embryos. The operations are carried out on a weekly basis.
Ivan Sheiko informed that DNA tests are to confirm whether the goatlings are truly genetically engineered. Samples of their living tissue were sent to the St. Petersburg lab — the only CIS lab specializing in this field. The Belarusian scientists hope for a positive result, as during the experiment they managed “to perfect optimal environment for cultivating goat embryos”.
The biotechnologies center has a farm with 200 goats. All of them are potential participants in a scientific experiment. The animal-breeding institute takes care of the upkeep. The biotechnologies center has micromanipulators to inject human genes into animal embryos. The equipment cost 70,000 euros. Imported hormonal medications, which are necessary for the experiments, cost a lot as well.
On the whole, the Union State’s program funding makes 50 million Russian rubles, with 65% financed by Russia and 35% by Belarus. The joint Belarusian-Russian program BelRosTransgen is to be completed in late 2006. Some 90% of the sum has already been disbursed.
The Belarusian and Russian scientists insist on continuing the experiment. The next stage will have to get offspring from the transgenic animals. Then the offsprings’ milk will be used to produce modern medications. The animal breeding institute plans to reach this goal in 2007–2010. The milk will be used to produce medications rich in lactoferin and prourokinase. Lactoferin-based products are used to produce artificial feeding for babies. Prourokinase-based medications help blood plaques to dissolve.
At present a draft second stage of the program was submitted for consideration of the Union Council of Ministers. Its implementation requires at least $10 million.