Chinese scientists at NanKai University claimed to have finally cloned pigs successfully through a fully automated AI process in March this year.
The College of Artificial Intelligence at the University in northern China’s Tianjin City state their surrogate sow birthed 7 cloned piglets with no human operation involved.
Liu Yaowei a member of the Uni’s research team said, “Each step of the cloning process was automated, and no human operation was involved,”
According to Liu the process of removing human contribution helped to streamline the process and improve the success rate.
Prior to this in 2017 the University claimed to have cloned pigs using robots but with human involvement which they later stated added to the margin of error. Eliminating this process is believed to have bought about a higher success rate allowing the AI system to perform a more accurate outcome
“Our 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,” Liu said this week.
Why clone pigs?
China’s pork industry saw a massive blow in both 2018 and 2019 when an outbreak of African swine fever virus destroyed the country’s pig population. Since then Beijing has promoted a considerable campaign created to push Chinese pig farmers off imported stock and to encourage and support home-bred self-sustaining herds.
China is the world’s highest consumer and producer of pork and sees the nation currently relying on heavy imports of breeding pigs to sustain the industry demand.
A consistent and reliable technique for cloning pigs is seen by China to possibly provide a cheaper source of agriculture for the industry and therefore benefit consumers.
The cloning of pigs is nothing unusual to come out of China, as previously the world watched them produce gene-edited human babies in 2018 as well as impregnated male rats in 2021.
In the 2021 rat experiment scientists sewed together a female and male rat. They then transferred the uterus from the female to the male and then planted embryos from the female into the males transplanted uterus.