UAE scientists made news early this week after claiming to have cloned world's second camel, this time from what they called 'a pinch of skin of an elite animal'. What many in India however don't know is that the man behind making the calf Bin Soughan, is a Kashmiri scientist, working in Dubai for many years.
Dr Nisar Ahmad Wani, a reproductive biologist and in charge of cloning projects at Dubai's Camel Reproduction Centre and had worked as assistant professor in Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Technology, toiled for seven long years to achieve this. Dr Wani belongs to Anantnag district in Kashmir. He did his BVSc &AH from SKUAST in 1992 and MVSc in 1996 from the same university.
Bin Soughan was born on February 23 after an uncomplicated pregnancy.
The news comes within a year of the birth of the first cloned camel in the city, Injaz. Dr Wani was the brain behind the first cloned animal as well. According to Camel Reproduction Centre (CRC), the male calf was cloned from cells harvested from the skin of an elite bull, the first time a camel has been reproduced from the cells of a living animal. Injaz, the world's first cloned camel, was produced from the ovarian cell of a camel that was slaughtered for its meat. Injaz or achievement in Arabic, a humped female camel, was the 12th domestic species to be cloned. Dolly (Sheep) was the first animal to have been cloned.
"Inajz is one year old and is doing much better than animals his age," Wani told Hindustan Times.
Dr Wani claims that development of a clone from skin cells makes the process easier. This he says will help preservation of genetically valuable animals that have high milk producers, racing champions and males of high genetic merit. "We can always preserve the genes of our best animals and make many of their kind after their death," said Wani, who is Head of the Reproductive Biology Laboratory at the CRC.
"The ability of skin cells to re-programme and develop into an embryo has made the process of cloning camels easier as skin cells are easy to obtain in contrast to reproductive tissue," he added.
"When I joined the institute, I was amazed to see the amount of work done on other species. Though camel was their priority, they didn't know much about it. The cloning process started in 2007," he added.
Dr Wani's PhD in cryopreservation of reproductive cells, ova and sperm in GB Pant Agricultural University in Uttaranchal, too, helped him in his endeavour.
"My PhD thesis was also highly recognised and was first of its kind," he said.
He has more than 52 scientific papers to his credit, most of which have been published in international scientific journals. He has received nine awards for his various achievements so far.
In the future, Wani hopes the centre's genetic research will help pioneer treatments for human diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson and Alzheimer's.
Wani says modifications of camel genes could help identify the code for a human protein, which could be injected into camel milk and used to curb conditions such as stomach ulcers and arthritis.
Wani said: "It is possible that if you suffer from diabetes, one day you may be able to drink a glass of camel milk instead of having an insulin injection."