Herman the bull heads to greener pastures
2 April 2004
AMSTERDAM — Herman, the world’s first genetically modified bull, has had to be put to sleep. The bull had been at the centre of an ethical storm when he was genetically engineered in 1991. In recent times he had been suffering from a crippling disease, it was revealed Friday.
Herman the Bull, put down at age 13
Herman, 13, had been living out his peaceful retirement with cloned cows Holly and Belle as part of the biotechnology exhibit at the Naturalis natural history museum in Leiden in the Netherlands, news agency ANP reported.
Vets at the University of Utrecht, which was caring for Herman, said it was decided to put him to sleep because he was suffering from arthritis, a disease that affects limb joints.
Herman was the world’s first transgenic bull and was conceived in a test tube at the laboratories of Leiden-based firm Pharming Europe.
Scientists injected Herman’s cells with human gene coding so that his female offspring would produce milk containing lactoferrin, which is an iron-containing protein important for infant growth.
Babies get lactoferrin from mother’s milk or formula, but cow’s milk does not include the protein, which helps fight infections.
Researchers planned to artificially inseminate 60 cows with Herman’s sperm in order to create a new generation of inexpensive, high-tech drugs derived from cows’ milk to treat complex diseases such as AIDS and cancer.
But the announcement of Herman’s creation caused an outcry from people concerned about the ethics of genetic manipulation.
In December 1992, the Dutch Parliament changed the law to allow Herman to reproduce. He went on to father 55 calves.
Cows born from Herman did produce milk containing lactoferrin. This almost proved his undoing, however, as the law demanded that he be slaughtered at the conclusion of his role in the experiment.
Scientists and the public rallied to Herman’s defence and in the end the Agriculture Minister of the day, Jozias van Aartsen, agreed to a reprieve — providing that Herman did not have any more offspring. Eventually, Herman was placed in Naturalis.
The Herman foundation, or Stichting Stier Herman, confirmed his death on Friday. The organisation said the arthritis had been caused by old age and there was no evidence it was linked to his genetic engineering.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news + transgenic bull