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CCMB’s Iran hope for Asiatic cheetah

Visiting Iranian President Khatami is in for a surprise request from Indian scientists when he visits Hyderabad on Tuesday. Indian scientist...

Written by Pallava Bagla | New Delhi |
January 28, 2003

Visiting Iranian President Khatami is in for a surprise request from Indian scientists when he visits Hyderabad on Tuesday. Indian scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, are going to make a fervent plea in front of the visiting dignitary for the initiation of a collaborative project on the cloning of the Asiatic cheetah.

Earlier on Saturday, India and Iran signed an agreement on cooperation in science and technology, which among other things hopes to ‘‘realise the potential of collaboration in biotechnology’’. Dr Mustafa Moin, the visiting science minister from Iran, ‘‘has expressed keen interest in genetic engineering’’.This has given hope to the Indian side that Iran might agree to cooperate on the forward-looking cheetah-cloning project. Dr Lalji Singh director of CCMB and chief of the Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Animals told The Indian Express that he would make a very strong case to President Khatami that a joint collaborative project be immediately initiated on the cloning of the cheetah.

Singh says his biggest hurdle is trying to procure a live cheetah. He says if a live animal is not possible, a small amount of live tissue can also do the job. He says in the last 2-3 years they have been working hard in trying to perfect using the Indian leopard as a surrogate mother to conduct the first ever cloning of the Asiatic cheetah.

Known for its agility and high speed the Asiatic cheetah went extinct from India in 1948. Today they are only found in Iran and Singh says the ideal situation will be if Iran agrees to translocate one live pair to India. He adds that if that is not possible he is more than willing to go to Iran to collect some live cells of the Cheetah, which can then be made into living cell lines.

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