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Cause of oversized placentas in cloning found after two decades

Figure 1: A mouse embryo (left) produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) attached to a normalized placenta (right). RIKEN researchers have discovered why SCNT produces large placentas. Credit: RIKEN BioResource Research Center One reason a technique for cloning animals often results in oversized placentas, and hence failed births, has been uncovered in mice by an all-RIKEN team. This finding will help improve the success rate of the cloning method and could also shed light on fertility treatments for people.

The cloning method known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) made headlines in 1997 when Dolly the sheep became the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. It involves swapping the nucleus of an egg cell from the mother with a nucleus from a normal somatic cell from the nuclear donor animal and then placing the egg into the uterus of a surrogate mother. SCNT is a powerful tool for basic research, medicine, agriculture and environmental science.

However, despite significant progress, SCNT’s birth rate is still well below that of natural fertilization. One reason for this is that the placentas of the artificially fertilized embryos are often abnormally large, which frequently leads to developmental complications. But even after 20 years of […]

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