Global team to develop therapeutic cloning

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007, 12:00am

Plans are under way to set up an international consortium on the mainland to develop the use of cloned animals to treat degenerative diseases, according to an American-Chinese biologist who cloned the first dairy cow in the US.

Jerry Yang Xiangzhong, professor and director of the Centre for Regenerative Biology at the University of Connecticut, said he believed the mainland could be a leading centre for cloning techniques because the industry had both legal and financial backing from the central government.

'Its focus will be therapeutic cloning - meaning one day we want to have a cure for human diseases that have no cure,' he said.

These include Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, skeleto-muscular dystrophy, and cancer.

'I want to use cloning technology for human medicine, meaning taking your cells to convert to any cells that have died, aged or mutated,' he said. 'It will help in the future for China to play a critical and leading role in biomedicine research.'

Professor Yang, 47, who presented a paper on cloning therapy at an international biomedical forum jointly organised by Harvard Medical School, the University of Hong Kong and Nature Publishing Group, left yesterday for Shanghai and Beijing to discuss the funding and siting of an international consortium on the mainland that will further develop the use of therapeutic cloning.

After four visits to the mainland, he said he was confident of a 'positive level of funding' to kick-start the consortium. 'We hope we will be moving very quickly.'

Professor Yang received his bachelor's degree in animal science from the China Agricultural University in 1982, and his masters and doctoral degrees from Cornell University in the United States.

British scientists cloned the first animal - Dolly the sheep - in 1997.

In June 1998, Professor Yang's team introduced Amy, the calf, the first cloned animal from an adult dairy cow in the US.

Professor Yang, diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland six years ago, admitted he had a personal interest in finding a cure for cancer. 'I take each day as it comes,' he said.