The first two reasons Chinese scientists are mass cloning pigs are fascinating. The third is adorable.
Cloning is nothing new, but Chinese scientists have recently taken the application of it to a whole different level. With new "clone factory" techniques, one Chinese company is mass producing cloned pigs on an industrial scale never seen before, and the reasons why will fascinate you.
Located in an old shoe factory, BGI is the world's largest center for gene sequencing. Their current specialty, however, is cloning pigs. Dr Yutao Du, the head scientist, explained, "We can do cloning on a very large scale; 30-50 people together doing cloning so that we can make a cloning factory here." The factory produces an incredible 500 cloned pigs a year.
The main point is to create pigs that can be used to test out new medicines. Pigs are useful in this way because they are genetically similar to humans. If the pigs' genes are modified to represent common human genetic defects, then they can be used to test new cures. For example, some of the pigs have had their DNA modified to try to make them more susceptible to Alzheimer's so that later scientists can try new Alzheimer's medications on them.
When asked about the other criteria for cloning a species, Wang Jun commented, "If it tastes good, you should sequence it. You should know what's in the genes of that species." He added that another criteria is if the species is good for industrial use, such as raising yields or for medical testing. Wang Jun went on to say, "A third category is if it looks cute - anything that looks cute: panda, polar bear, penguin, you should really sequence it - it's like digitalizing all the wonderful species," he explains.
So for future cloning recruitment, only adorable pigs need apply!