Nisar Wani, a renowned veterinarian and pioneer in camel cloning, is continuing his groundbreaking work by replicating several dozen camels each year at a laboratory in Dubai. This venture is highly lucrative in the Gulf region, where camels hold great cultural significance and can fetch substantial sums of money in beauty contests and racing events.
The cloning process involves somatic cell nuclear transfer, a technique used in reproductive cloning. Wani and his team extract DNA from a camel egg cell and replace it with DNA from a frozen body cell of a prized camel known for its exceptional qualities, such as speed or beauty. The modified egg then develops into an embryo without the need for sperm.
Animal cloning, however, is a time-consuming and challenging process with relatively low success rates. Out of a hundred transferred embryos, only around five to ten pregnancies may occur, resulting in three to six newborn camels, according to Wani, who holds a Ph.D. in animal reproduction.
The Reproductive Biotechnology Centre in Dubai, where Wani conducts his research, focuses on preserving the cells of elite racing camels, beauty contest winners, milking camels, and prized males. Additionally, the center employs interspecies cloning techniques to safeguard endangered species. Wani mentions the successful cloning of critically endangered, double-humped wild Bactrian camels using eggs and surrogate mothers from single-humped camels.
Wani emphasizes that cloning is not a novel process but rather a means of assisting natural reproduction. He states that all the necessary materials were created by God, and their work merely aids the process. While the center employs various assisted reproductive technologies, the preservation of elite traits primarily relies on the traditional method of multiple embryo transfers. By stimulating a valued camel’s ovary to produce multiple eggs and fertilizing them with high-quality sperm, they can transfer multiple embryos to surrogate camels. For example, this year they achieved 20 pregnancies using a well-regarded male and female camel.
Wani’s efforts in camel cloning highlight the intersection of science and tradition, as well as the ongoing quest to preserve valuable genetic traits and protect endangered species.
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