China claims a first with cloned rabbit

China has produced the world's first cloned rabbit using a biological process that takes cells from a fetus, state media said on Tuesday.

The female rabbit, which weighed 60 grams at birth in February, was now growing normally at an animal centre in Shanghai, the China Daily said.

Scientists have cloned mice, cattle and other animals since the first cloned sheep, Dolly, was born in 1996. Malaysia is even trying to clone some of its threatened leatherback turtles to save them from extinction.

But it was only in 2002 that French scientists produced the world's first cloned rabbit using cells from an adult female rabbit, the paper said.

The Chinese rabbit was the world's first to be cloned using "fibroblast" cells from a fetal rabbit, the China Daily said.

"Chinese cloning research has reached a global advanced level," the newspaper quoted Wang Hongguang, director of the China Centre for Biotechnology Development, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, as saying. "We can reproduce almost all the cloning results in top-class laboratories around the world. However, we are lacking in original creations such as the newly cloned rabbit."

It was not clear if the findings had been published in a scientific journal or independently verified.

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