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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 03/01/02
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Scientists Find that Cloned Animals Suffer from Obesity

Cincinnati--In the March 1 issue of Nature Medicine, Randall R. Sakai, PhD, associate professor, psychiatry, and associates at University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, report details of the first documented research to prove that cloned animals suffer from obesity. After the news that Dolly the sheep has arthritis and that cloned mice may have a reduced life-span, Nature Medicine reports on a further abnormality produced by cloning: cloned mice are also prone to adult-onset obesity.

Professor Sakai and colleagues at the UC College of Medicine Obesity Research Center studied mice created by the technique of somatic cell transfer to produce cloned mice -- that is, the nucleus of an adult cell was placed into a donor egg that had the original nucleus removed. The mice studied at UC were cloned at the University of Hawaii, Institute for Biogenesis Research, John A. Burns School of Medicine, by the same internationally known reproductive biology research team led by Ryuzo Yanagimachi, PhD, that cloned the first mouse. The cloned mice became heavier than controls after 10 weeks of age. The scientists measured various parameters of obesity and found that the clones were not simply larger than controls, but also displayed the characteristics of obesity -- increased body fat, increased levels of leptin (a hormone produced by fat cells), and raised levels of insulin in the blood. Importantly, the offspring of these mice were not obese, meaning that the abnormality was not passed on through the germline.

UC scientists who contributed to Sakai's research included David A. D'Alessio, MD, associate professor, internal medicine/endocrinology; Randy J. Seeley, PhD, associate professor, psychiatry; Stephen C. Woods, PhD, professor, psychiatry; and Kellie L.K. Tamashiro, Jennifer Lachey, and Matthew Wortman, students in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience.

Ian Wilmut, PhD, a key member of the team that generated the first clone, Dolly the sheep, writes an accompanying News & Views article in the March 1 Nature Medicine, discussing the work. He asks whether any cloned animals are normal, and writes that detailed observations of clones "...are important before large-scale use of the technology in medicine..." can take place.

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