Chinese scientists have successfully cloned pigs using robots, the first time animals ever have been cloned by machines, chinanews.com reported Monday.
Two surrogate pigs gave birth to 13 healthy cloned Changbai piglets on April 26 and 29 respectively, which was the culmination of a project by Professor Zhao Xin and his team at the Institute of Robotics & Automatic Information System, Tianjin's Nankai University.
The Nankai team has conducted thousands of experiments to test their breakthrough technology. In early January 2017, 510 embryos were transferred into six female pigs, two of which became pregnant with the piglets born in April.
In the cloning process, the collection and transfer of DNA from the donor animal to the surrogates was conducted by robots, as opposed to being performed by hand.
Professor Zhao told chinanews.com that somatic cell cloning is a classic approach to species improvement. He explained that while the offspring produced with this technique are guaranteed to be of high quality, the technique has traditionally had a low success rate due to damage done to cells.
Due to robot's superior control and accuracy, they are able to do less damage to the cells in this process. Zhao said that the force of a human hand is like a hard punch to a cell while that of a robot hand is like a gentle push. At least one key indicator of successful cell cloning showed a 100 percent improvement over human-conducted cloning.
"This particular technology, if applied correctly, could be of great value in assisted fertility, species improvement, healthcare and livestock reproduction," said Professor Zhao.