A cloned mouse created at the Tokyo University of Agriculture (Photo: Getty)
For the first time, scientists in Japan have used a single drop of blood to clone a mouse.
The cloned mouse is a female, and was created using blood from the tail of a living donor mouse, who was unharmed by the procedure, BBC News reports.
According to the researchers who worked on the project, the cloned animal lived a normal lifespan and was able to give birth.
If you're wondering why scientists are going to all this trouble to make genetic copies of mice, there is an explanation.
Mice play a central role in scientific studies on substance abuse, anxiety, cancer, and other human ailments.
Researchers can spend years developing a strain of mouse with the right genetic mutations to model a particular human disorder.
But when a valuable strain of mouse becomes infertile, scientists risk losing an important research resource.
If scientists are unable to use sperm from a male mouse donor to fertlize an egg and breed new animals, they have to turn to cloning to continue the genetic line.
The technique used by the team at the RIKEN BioResource Centre in Japan is the same one that produced Dolly the Sheep in Edinburgh, one of the best-known examples of animal cloning.
According to PopSci, the cloning method could go beyond mice, allowing "for the cloning of endangered or cherished animals (such as a cow that produces a large amount of milk, or "invaluable strains of mice" as the report states) since the donor need not be euthanized."
Many people have spoken out against the practice of using lab animals like mice in medical and other experiments.
Anti-animal testing advocates point out that even tests on laboratory animals like chimpanzees, which share 99 per cent of humans' DNA, often lead to inaccurate results.
"Our physiology is sufficiently different to invalidate most cures devised by animal experimentation," writes Peter Tatchell in the Guardian.
The issue of cloning has also created controversy, especially as it relates to bringing back extinct species (like the woolly mammoth), or possibly creating human clones.
Earlier this year, researchers in Oregon created cloned human embryos that produced viable stem cells.
They speculated that the cells could be used to improve treatments for conditions like Parkinson's, but there was some backlash about the scientists' decision to create "new human lives in the laboratory solely to destroy them," as Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston put it.