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Intelligent Machines

Cloning Cows

With just homemade needles and some cells from an ear biopsy, Jose Cibelli of Cyagra demonstrates how to build a blue-ribbon steer.

Most scientists spend their graduate-school years generating reams of data that wind up in the pages of a scientific journal or collecting dust in the university library. Jose Cibelli’s PhD project wound up swatting at flies in a grassy pasture near the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where the reproductive researcher earned his degree. Shown here flanking Cibelli, Charlie and George were among the first cattle ever cloned when they were born in January 1998. These days Cibelli and his colleagues at Worcester, MA-based Cyagra are turning the once experimental technique used to produce the twin Holsteins into a commercial enterprise. In the space of a year and for a fee of $19,000, Cyagra will transform a tiny skin sample from a prized animal into a living, breathing clone of the creature. Though Cyagra-a spinoff of biotech company Advanced Cell Technology-isn’t saying publicly how many customers it’s had so far, Cibelli says it has the ability to clone an animal in a day. During a visit this summer, Technology Review senior editor Rebecca Zacks got a chance to watch Cibelli do just that, and to meet George and Charlie.

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