The UAE is renowned for its industrial (oil and gas) production, and as a major Middle East transport hub, but was less so for its national initiative to promote scientific innovation; that was, however, until news were released regarding Injaz, the “world’s first cloned camel” born in Dubai, at 4:30 pm on April 2009. Since then, the emirate has been at the forefront of camel breeding with embryo transfers and cloning advances.
Dr. Ulrich Wernery, the scientific director at CVRL, believes the birth was a major breakthrough for the scientists involved in the research program. The project began in 2003 at CVRL; the first cloned camel calf was created by extracting the DNA from an adult animal to produce a “reconstructed embryo” in the laboratory using eggs harvested from a female. An egg was then implanted in the surrogate mother’s uterus. She carried it for a period of 378 days while the scientists monitored her and the calf’s health.
The complicated process of the embryo transfer and the implanting of a reconstructed embryo in a surrogate mother, lead to the birth of Injaz; it was the only live calf from seven induced pregnancies, Dr. Lulu Skidmore, the scientific director at the Camel Reproduction Centre, said. Injaz was replicated from a camel chosen at random.
Dr. Wernery believes cloning will remain in the domain of scientific research for a long time to come. He notes UAE has become the world’s most advanced camel research centers to carry out the scientific endeavorthat “gives a means of preserving the valuable genetics of our elite racing and milk-producing camels in the future” – an idea supported by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The scientists at the Camel Reproduction Centre (CRC) and the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) prove to be a driving factor in advances for camel cloning and breeding exploration at the UAE. By using surrogate mother-camels, the center is able to increase the number of embryo transfers and cloning techniques of other future camels. Cloning was successful in other instances; a male calf, named Bin Soughan, the world’s second cloned camel, was born at CRC in Dubai, after 383 days, on February 23, 2010 at 3am. It’s reported that the center also saw the successful birth of a camel-llama hybrid, aka “cama.”
While Injaz was produced from the ovarian cell of a camel, Bin Soughan was created from cells harvested from the skin of an elite bull said Dr. Nisar Ahmad Wani, Head of the Reproductive Biology Laboratory at the CRC. He oversees the facility that houses about 150 camels, which is for research only, tells Julian Skidmore, Scientific Director of the center.