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Posted at: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM; last updated: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM (IST)

Milk it and know how!

Parveen Arora in Karnal
Milk it and know how!
Young scientists at an NDRI lab in Karnal. Photo: Ravi Kumar
Among several expectancies of miracles, there is also an expression of an empirical order at Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa. Bovine blessedness, let's call it. Scientists of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and Central Institute for Research on Buffalo, Hisar, have teamed up for a unique experiment: how to prepare and disseminate elite buffalo germplasm across the country. The Dera has around 400 buffalos and has offered all assistance. 

The prod came from the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, which has set a target to produce elite male and female animals through advance reproductive techniques. "We have experimented with embryo transfer technology (ETT) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the buffalo. But the most important and underexploited possibility is somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) in buffalo breeding," says Dr. AK Srivastava, Director, NDRI. What he means is utilizing a lab technique for creating an ovum with a donor nucleus. This technique can also be used in embryonic stem cell research, sometimes called 'therapeutic cloning.'

"We have standardized the simple and effective hand-guided cloning technique in buffalo, which is faster, simpler and more efficient than the conventional micromanipulator-based SCNT. It also does not require expensive micromanipulators and skilled manpower to operate," Dr Srivastava said.

"This initiative is a ray of hope for the multiplication of good germplasm of Murrah buffalo, a breed of Haryana which is in high demand across the country," says Dr. PR Nain, Dera's senior vice chairman.  "India is considered home of some of the best buffalo breeds which contribute more than half of the total milk produced (55%) in the country. With such a huge contribution by buffaloes, India is the largest milk producer in the world, producing about 146.3 million tons during 2015-16. In addition to milk production, buffalo meat production is the major part of Indian meat export generating huge revenues in the animal product sector. 

"We have successfully produced cloned buffalo embryos using donor cells," he said. The cloned animals, male and female, are reproductively normal. This was demonstrated by the birth of female calves 'Mahima' in 2013 and 'Karishma' in 2014 following artificial insemination of Garima-II, a cloned buffalo produced using embryonic stem cells as donor cells, the Director said.

"We have also demonstrated the feasibility of using cloning technology for multiplication of elite females by producing 'Lalima' and 'Apurva', clones of an elite Murrah buffalo," he added.  

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