Celebrating world veterinary day-2012 with “NOORI"

Greater Kashmir

 “Noori”, the first Pashmina goat clone has provided a reason for the veterinarians of the Jammu and Kashmir state to be proud and delighted on this World Veterinary Day. The cute clone that weighed 1.2 kg at birth on 9th of March, 2012 has already attained 5 Kg during last one and half months.
Cloning is defined as the process of creating a genetically identical copy of another animal through non-sexual means. Clones are not genetically engineered, but rather conventional animals.  It is an advanced assisted reproduction technique that does not manipulate or alter the animal’s DNA. While scientists had been attempting to clone animals for more than 50 years, cloning wasn’t widely considered a success until the production of ‘Dolly’ the Sheep.
  The procedure followed to clone “Noori” was a nuclear transfer technique that used DNA from adult cells. A tissue sample from the ear of the Pashmina goat intended to be cloned was obtained. Unfertilized oocytes (eggs) were harvested from goat ovary (collected from slaughter house offal’s). These oocytes were stripped of their own DNA, and the DNA from the donor was subsequently inserted into the “empty” enucleated oocyte. The reconstructed oocyte containing the donor Pashmina goat DNA was then stimulated to start dividing to form an early stage embryo. The embryo was then transferred into the womb of a surrogate recipient goat utilizing minimally invasive laparoscopic surgical technique. After a normal gestation period, the cloned kid (Noori) was delivered that is genetically identical to the selected Pashmina doe. Since both the donor goat and the kid have the same DNA, Noori may be referred to as a “later-born identical twin” of the donor Pashmina goat. However, the donor goat and Noori will not be exact replica of each other. This is because environmental factors can impact the chemical structure of the DNA and gene expression to a limited extent. As a result, certain physical characteristics, such as markings and behavior, will differ between the parent (donor) goat and its clone.
The DNA from the donor animal is transferred into many oocytes in the laboratory. Only a small number of the oocytes containing the desired donor DNA will begin to develop into an early stage embryo; an even smaller number of oocytes will remain viable once transferred to a recipient animal. Even oocytes that have been successfully transferred and prove viable (live) on follow-up ultrasound examinations are not guaranteed to produce a live animal. For example, to produce the first cloned horse (Prometea in 2003), investigators experimented with 841 reconstructed embryos. Of the 14 viable embryos, four were implanted into surrogate mothers, and only one live foal was produced. 
The cloning success “Noori” took more than two years of dedicated hard work at the Centre of Animal Biotechnology, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Srinagar. Four scientists/faculty members belonging to different disciplines along with three young and enthusiastic research associates were involved in this research. The encouragement got from the birth of the first successful buffalo clone named Garima in 2009 while pursuing his doctorate at National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, Dr. Riaz Ahmad Shah, Associate Professor, Centre of Animal Biotechnology, was successful in getting National Agriculture Innovation Project (NAIP) on cloning of the Pashmina goat. At the time the project was launched, this biotechnology centre did not exist and the development of facilities for establishing the centre had to go hand in hand with research trials. During the beginning of the work the laboratory facilities were provided by Veterinary Microbiology Division. Arranging fresh goat ovaries, twice every week, from Delhi (people in Kashmir mostly prefer mutton than goat meat called chevon; goat ovaries are therefore not easily available here) and managing their quick transport in suitable environment by air to Srinagar airport and a speedy drive of more than 30 kilometers through city centre, facing frequent traffic jams and the prolonged public unrest (during 2010 summer), before reaching the destination was in itself a hectic exercise. The arrival of every consignment would initiate brisk activities at the Cloning laboratory that would continue for several days and nights. Successful development of one or two embryos was simultaneously accompanied by efforts to bring surrogate goat into the corresponding reproductive cycle followed by minimally invasive laparoscopic surgical transfer of the delicate embryos into its womb. Regular monitoring of pregnancy by ultrasonography was done at the Division of Veterinary Surgery and Radiology.
Cloning in general has been used for a variety of purposes, such as producing strong, healthy, reproductively viable animals and to help protect endangered species. By this technique one or more young ones are produced from a superior animal that due to some reason cannot reproduce.  It can also be used to preserve the genetics of animals that either died prematurely or died prior to recognition of the valuable genes. Some owners want to have a replica of their pet animals in the belief that they can ‘replace’ that loss. Cloning by the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technique can be used in combination with other techniques, for example transgenesis, genetically modified stem cells, in which case the impact on the animals will be a combination of the cloning technology and the transgene or other manipulation. In Kashmir, the birth of Noori has infused new hope of producing not only quality domestic animals but also exploring the possibility of cloning highly endangered wild animal (Hangul, Markhor etc.) species.
 Despite lack of infrastructure and man power, efforts to carry out quality research at this faculty have been put in, right from its inception.  Several externally funded research projects are currently being executed. Centre of Animal Biotechnology is also working on unraveling the genes responsible for cold stress tolerance in Double-Humped camel and Pashmina goats of Ladakh region through various high-end techniques, applying information technology in veterinary education through e-learning courses under Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Science and Technology sponsored Bioinformatics Infrastructural Facility (BIF) and Star College Programs (www.starelearning.org).
Although visible achievements in teaching, research and extension have been made, yet the society at large expects this institution to contribute significantly in quality animal production, safeguarding animal and human health, food safety, animal welfare and environment. The silently spreading zoonotic (transmitted from animals to man) diseases that can have devastating effects on human and animal life need immediate attention. The number of Rabies cases is expected to decline once the sterilization cum antirabies vaccination of the stray dogs is carried out. Several Animal Birth Control (ABC) units for sterilization of the stray dogs not only in Srinagar city but also in districts and towns need to be established. Brucellosis (Bang’s disease) an important bacterial disease affecting food animals has during the recent past got transmitted to several animal owners, paravets and veterinarians. This disease has the potential to affect the general human population if animal food products are not handled carefully. Serious efforts to control this malady have yet to be initiated.  Focusing on human Tuberculosis (T.B) alone without taking steps to curb it in animals over several decades has not yielded the desired results. Thus there is an urgent need to address these diseases both in animals and human beings simultaneously under joint ventures (as one health priority issues).
The World Veterinary Association (WVA) created World Veterinary Day in 2000 as an annual celebration of the veterinary profession, falling on the last Saturday of April. Each year, the WVA and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) announce a theme for the event. The theme for World Veterinary Day 2012 has been announced as “Loss of efficacy in antimicrobial treatment through resistance development is an ever-present risk both towards animal as well as public health.” Antibiotic resistance is a type of drug resistance where a microorganism is able to survive exposure to an antibiotic. The increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections seen in clinical practice stem from antibiotic uses both within human and veterinary medicine. Drugs used in food animals can affect the safety of the meat, milk, and eggs, and can be the source of superbugs. The resistant bacteria in animals due to antibiotic exposure can be transmitted to humans via three pathways, those being through the consumption of meat, from close or direct contact with animals, or through the environment. In our valley, the irrational and extensive use of antibiotics and analgesics in food animals without following any milk and meat withdrawal times would be disastrous in the long run.
Unfortunately, in our veterinary practice, the antibiotics are generally misused and over used. In addition to the qualified veterinarians, the paraveterinarians and even the animal owners have started injecting antibiotics to their animals without proper veterinary consultation. According to the WVA and OIE announcement, “delivery of antimicrobials and treatment of animals should be done directly through well-trained veterinarians.” Contrary to this guideline, our government is contemplating to recruit youth with meager scientific knowledge to act as “bare foot doctors” in the rural areas.
Considering the number and the magnitude of the challenges the veterinary profession in our valley is currently facing and the great expectations especially after the birth of Noori, up gradation of the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences & Animal Husbandry appears imperative.

Authors are Associate Professors, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences & AH, SKUAST-K, Shuhama, Srinagar. Feedback at fazili_mr@yahoo.co.in