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Cloned oak: Belarus’ scientists conduct unique experiment

Geneticists from Gomel have cloned the oldest oak in Belarus, called the king oak, which is located in the Brest region. Thanks to contemporary science, the tree obtained “genetic twins”. Scientists from the Institute of Forest of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus have been working hard on rejuvenation of two oaks’ cells for nine months now. These oaks are the oldest in Belarus.

The height of the king oak is about 40 meters. The scientists hired an alpinist to collect young sprouts from the top of the tree. You can hardly believe that a tiny sprout in a test-tube and the forest giant are the same plant. But it’s not a joke.

Dmitry Kulagin, research fellow of the genetics and biotechnologies laboratory of the Institute of Forest of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus:
We had managed to reproduce the tree by the end of the summer. The sprouts were good and big.

The experiment involves two oldest oaks in the country. Besides the king oak, there is the patriarch oak. It is 200 years younger, and they both grow a few kilometers from each other.

As a rule, plants remain green in a laboratory all year long. But the oldest oaks surprised the scientists having gone into hibernation. The king oak is in a climate chamber. It is just expected to wake up. But the patriarch oak delighted scientists with spring green leaves.

The trees didn't change their habits. Dmitry Kulagin, the author of the cloning idea, learnt from experience that oaks are trees of character.

Dmitry Kulagin:
We expected that at least 20-30 sprouts would blossom, but there were only three or four sprouts. Surprisingly, the 700-year-old patriarch oak woke up quickly. There were a lot of sprouts.

The twin trees with the genetics of the oldest ones may be a basis for new forests in Belarus. However, fundamental scientific problems should be solved - though the cells of the king-oak preserved heredity, they live not as active as they did in their youth.

Vladimir Padutov, head of the genetics and biotechnologies laboratory of the Institute of Forest of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus:
When we decided to find old oaks among those which are considered to be natural monuments we found only these two trees.

Special hormonal therapy helps trees’ cells to remember their youth. However, it is too early to say how long it will take to move the plants from the test tubes into the soil. One thing is clear - the Gomel geneticists’ project has nationwide importance.

Cloned oak: Belarus’ scientists conduct unique experiment