Endangered animals could be cloned using skin cells to save them from extinction

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Endangered animals could be brought back from the brink of extinction by cloning.

In a pioneering experiment, mice were cloned using freeze-dried skin cells.

Researchers at the University of Yamanashi, Japan, freeze-dried skin cells from mouse tails and stored them for up to nine months.

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The freeze-drying process initially killed the cells, but scientists were able to clone embryos by injecting the dead cells into mouse eggs.

By the end of the experiment, 75 mice had been cloned.

The boffins said: “Maintaining biodiversity is an essential task.

“But storing germ cells as genetic resources using liquid nitrogen is difficult, expensive, and easily disrupted during disasters.

“Here, we show that freeze-dried somatic cells can produce healthy, fertile clones.

“Suggesting that this technique may be important for the establishment of alternative, cheaper, and safer liquid nitrogen-free biobanking solutions.”

Of those, nine females and three males were bred with normal mice and the females all went on to have litters of their own.

The success rate for healthy mouse pups was between 0.2 per cent and 5.4 per cent.

While low, the boffins are still pleased with their breakthrough.

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Elsewhere in China, scientists have created "vampire mice" by injecting old ones with young blood to help them live longer.

The process involves surgically connecting their circulatory systems in a bid to shed more light on the ageing process.

It's the latest in a decades-old journey to find the key to rejuvenation as mystery still surrounds how young blood makes aged bodies return to a "younger state."

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