Planet China

Making a pig’s ear of it

Making a pig’s ear of it

Zhu Jianqiang is China’s most beloved pig. She earned her celebrity (as reported in WiC3) when she survived underground for 36 days after the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008 (hence her name, which translates as ‘Strong-Willed Pig’). But the four year-old sow now has another claim to fame, reports the China Youth Daily. Earlier this month her owner in Sichuan announced that the Beijing Genome Institute had successfully bred six clones of Zhu. The pig had been unable to breed, after being sterilised at an early age. So when the scientists offered cloning as an alternative, it was quickly accepted by Zhu’s owner, Fan Jianchuan, a rich Sichuanese businessman. A sample of Zhu’s ear tissue was used, and two 100kg sows used as surrogates to carry the embryo. The junior Zhus were born last month and, as intended, look identical to their mother, with the same hallmark black, petal-shaped birthmark between the eyebrows. Du Yutao of the Beijing Genome Institute says it is the first time that an aging pig’s somatic cell has been used in a successful cloning.

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