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Genetically Manipulated Bull Euthanized

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  • MJR
    Citizen of Tanelorn
    • Jan 2004
    • 281

    Genetically Manipulated Bull Euthanized

    Associated Press Writer

    April 2, 2004, 1:04 PM EST

    AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Herman the Bull, the world's first farm animal carrying a human gene, was euthanized Friday because he was suffering from a form of arthritis, his caretakers said.

    He was 13, not exceptionally old for a bull. His ailment was unrelated to his genetic manipulation, said the Naturalis museum in Leiden where Herman spent his final years.

    A human gene was spliced into Herman's genetic code while in an early embryonic stage in 1990, in the hope that milk produced by his female offspring would bear a human milk protein. The process was cutting-edge at the time, but has since been refined and is commonly used.

    The experiment was only a partial success. Milk from Herman's descendants contained the proteins, but at such low levels it wasn't commercially worthwhile to extract them.

    A spokesman for the Naturalis museum said the animal's joints had become almost completely blocked with growths.

    "He was always well-kept and happy, but you could see toward the end that he was in pain," Hans Dautzenberg said. "He avoided moving his knees and when he laid down, he stayed down for a long time."

    Dolly the sheep, the world's first mammal cloned from an adult, had also suffered from arthritis and was euthanized in 2003, well short of her normal lifespan, after being diagnosed with a progressive lung disease.

    Pharming NV, the company that modified Herman, underwent financial restructuring in 2001.

    Herman's 55 offspring were slaughtered after the experiment concluded, and he was bound for the same fate until a television program screened footage showing him licking a kitten.

    A public outcry ensued, led by animal rights activists, which saved him. He eventually won a bill of clemency from parliament, though he was ordered castrated. He lived on a farm for years until funding for his care ran out in 2002. He was then moved to a special display pen at Naturalis to help cover costs.

    He was not allowed out of his pen until Friday, when he was taken to a veterinary hospital in Utrecht to be euthanized. But two cloned cows, Holly and Belle, kept him company in his final years.

    Dautzenberg said Herman's skin will be saved and put into storage, in case the museum wants to have him stuffed and put on display.

    The 2,500-pound bull was a cross between two Dutch breeds, the Zwartbont Holstein Frisian and Groninger Blaarkop.

    In an interview with the Associated Press in 2002, Herman's keeper Marije de Vos said he had a fondness for music.

    De Vos said he listened to a rap station "around the clock."

    "It makes Herman calm," she said.
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