Scientists from the Czech Academy of Sciences have discovered the secret to natural cloning, a revelation that could have future implications for replicating human organs. In an April breakthrough, researchers at the academy's Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics are the first to successfully replicate a natural cloning process by fish vertebrates under laboratory conditions. "Understanding the nature of asexual reproduction at the cellular and whole organism level could allow for the production of vitally important human organs for transplantation," said Lukáš Choleva, one of the researchers involved.
|Spiny Loach cloned themselves in a laboratory environment. |
Breakthrough by team from Prague has human implications.
Cloning has been common in nature for millennia, with some animal species able to self-clone, meaning females can create exact copies of themselves without fertilization by males. There are about 80 varieties of vertebrates able to produce identical descendents or clones of themselves in the wild. This phenomenon is hardly news to scientists, but none had previously been able to repeat the process in a controlled environment. "We are the first ones who have actually managed to procreate the clones in laboratories in exactly the same way it happens in the wild," said Karel Janko, another member of the research team. The team managed to reproduce the natural cloning of a small fish species called the Spiny Loach, which is native to Europe, including in Czech rivers. The fish engage in asexual reproduction even though males and females spawn among each other.
The cloning process is triggered as a result of the male gametes penetrating female eggs, regardless of whether fertilization takes place. "Identical daughters are the descendents," Choleva said. "The females virtually abuse their males for their own multiplication." For some 12 years, Choleva and other scientists traveled Europe collecting different Spiny Loach species. They then recreated natural conditions in a laboratory setting. The research team was able to reproduce clones through a process of interspecies breeding. "What is really amazing about these different fish species is their tendency to reproduce among each other despite the fact that their evolutionary links are as far from each other as humans and chimpanzees would be," Janko said. The scientists will further examine the individual processes in asexual reproduction, which they say could eventually lead to insights into how human organs could be naturally reproduced for transplants. The process successfully completed by the Czechs scientists, which replicates natural cloning, differs from the famed 1996 experiment by Scottish researchers who famously cloned a sheep, which they named Dolly. Dolly was cloned in a test tube by genetic manipulation with a cell taken from an adult sheep. She died six years later of a common lung disease. - The Prague Post.