Clone from a Clone: CIRB does the trick

Pashu Sandesh, 16th July 2020

Scientists of the ICAR-Central Institute for Research on Buffalo (CIRB), Hisar have made the magnificent and acclaimed achievements in buffalo cloning and these are world’s first reports of its own kind- Produced seven cloned copies of an elite breeding buffalo bull M-29 and Re-cloned a calf of an earlier cloned bull Hisar-Gaurav (Clone of a top bull M-4354). These 8 clones are born between October 2019 to Jan 2020 from different foster mothers. Significant achievements also include a) More than 10000 semen doses of Hisar Gaurav are frozen. Using its semen for AI, 25 progenies produced. b) The fertility of clones was tested and is similar to non-cloned and donor bulls, c) Assamese buffalo cloned bull (produced in 2017 in the field) trained for semen production and >1200 semen doses frozen, d) Cloned calves, as well as offspring sired by cloned bulls, have normal growth, physical and haematological parameters. 

Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Secretary, DARE and Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi stated that cloning is a scientific method in which genetic identical copies of an inpidual are produced similar to asexual reproduction or vegetative propagation common in crops and vegetables. Cloning technology could be one of the suitable options for faster multiplication of the elite bulls in the shortest possible time so that their semen could fulfil the nation’s demand. At present, a limited amount of frozen semen is available from progeny tested bulls, which is grossly insufficient for genetic improvement programs. Also, thousands of young bulls are required every year to cover 60 million breedable buffalo population.

Dr BN Tripathi, Deputy Director General (AS), ICAR informed that India owns the world's best buffalo breeds, particularly Murrah, and ranked first in the total milk production in the world. In 2018-19, 187.75 million tonnes (mt) of milk produced in India, in which buffalo had contributed to 91.82 mt (49% of the total milk) which is more than crossbred/exotic cows (51.26 mt) and indigenous/nondescript cow (38.57 mt). Therefore, India’s white revolution cannot be imagined without the contribution of buffalo, and to achieve this sustainably, the best productive buffaloes need to be bred through superior germplasm. ICAR’s animal science pision has been working on buffalo cloning to produce elite bulls and females, aiming to increase buffalo’s milk productivity. 

Dr SS Dahiya, Director, CIRB, Hisar stated that CIRB is a dedicated institute working on all aspects of buffalo production. CIRB’s aims to develop and propagate high yielding elite buffalo germplasm across the country. India holds 109 million buffaloes, which accounts for over 56% of the world’s buffalo population. To increase the milk productivity of buffalo, CIRB has been exploiting advanced scientific methods such as buffalo cloning and produced record 10 cloned elite bulls. Cloned bulls produced by CIRB can be used to propagate elite germplasm to improve milk production. 

Dr PS Yadav, Head of the NASF funded cloning project enumerated that the main objectives of the project are to produce genetic copies of elite stocks for breeding purpose and improve cloning efficiency. Simultaneously, we are also working to make the stakeholders aware of this technology before its wider application in the field. Bulls for cloning are selected based on their best pedigree and progeny records. The cloned bulls can be used to upgrade the population of non-descript buffaloes. This technology will go a long way to face the challenges of meeting the growing milk demand in the country. Our team exhaustively studied earlier cloned bulls and reported that semen and reproductive profile including fertility of clones are similar to their donors and non-cloned bulls. 

The team members, Dr PS Yadav, Dr Naresh L. Selokar, Dr Dharmendra Kumar, Dr Rakesh Kumar Sharma, Dr Pradeep Kumar, Dr Rajesh Kumar, Dr Monika Saini and Dr Seema Dua were jubilant at their success and are hopeful that this valuable technique will lead to a new era in buffalo breeding for faster multiplication of superior germplasm.