- Scientists in China have successfully created an automated cloning technique that uses an AI-powered robot.
- This robot gave “birth” to seven piglets in March this year who managed to survive after cloning.
- Automated cloning is better than traditional cloning practices because it’s free of human intervention and causes fewer errors and damage to the cells used.
Animal cloning is defined as a technique used in biotechnology for the production of genetically indistinguishable copies of the desired animal. It’s a process of exploiting genetic information to artificially create animals.
So far, adult animals such as cattle, pigs, rabbits, sheep, and goats have been successfully cloned. However, the success rate of such cloning procedures remains low at around 10 percent of created offspring surviving after birth.
Animal cloning is useful to create “genetically superior” breeds of animals which are utilised by livestock breeders for creating healthier offsprings as well as for the production of livestock products such as milk and meat.
The advent of automated cloning
Automated cloning is the use of Artificial Intelligence(AI) powered applications to aid the process of creating a cloned animal without the use of any other surrogate animal or human intervention.
A team of researchers from the College of Artificial Intelligence at Nankai University in China created history by developing the world’s first fully automated cloning method. They used an AI-powered robot as a surrogate mother who in March gave birth to seven healthy living piglets.
A solution to a major glitch in the pork industry
China is arguably the world’s largest producer as well as consumer of pork. The annual pork consumption in China by a person ranges from 30-to 35 kgs per capita.
When it comes to producing pork, China nurtures around 400 million pigs for this particular business.
Despite these huge numbers it’s often difficult to meet the rising demands of the industry and even the consumption needs of their people.
It has been noted that the disparity in production and supply is because the rate of consumption of pork remains at an all-time high, pork being the main source of protein in the Chinese population. This is why China has to import millions of tons of expensive pig meat every year; even in 2021, the country purchased 3.31 million metric tonnes of pork.
eves that their AI-powered automated pig cloning method could be the possible solution to the extremely high demands as it would drastically increase the rate of pig production.
Automated cloning is better than traditional cloning
An important fact is that pork from pig clones is not the same as lab-grown meat because the latter is developed from cultured cells prepared in laboratory conditions. In contrast, the former is produced from the cells of an original pig.
Traditional cloning requires human intervention due to which chances of errors get multiplied enormously. One such technique used previously was somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which requires a human being to remove the nucleus from an animal’s egg cell so that a somatic cell can be put in its place. During the process, the delicate cells often get damaged or contaminated due to human involvement.
Researcher Yaowei suggests that compared to human-operated pig cloning, the success rate of robotic pig cloning is much higher with robots. The AI-powered system can calculate the strain within a cell and direct the robot to use minimal force to complete the cloning process, which reduces the cell damage caused by human hands.
Either way, a fully automated cloning setup will indeed benefit China’s endeavors at magnifying the scale of its pork production and reducing significant import costs.