June 04 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Biotechnology Year: General Rating: 7 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
In the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi film, The 6th Day, grieving pet owners go to a company called RePet to order a clone of their lost animal. Fast-forward to 2008 – science fiction becomes real science. BioArts, a California biotech company, and RNL Bio, a South Korea high-tech firm have both announced success with dog cloning, and are now accepting orders for cloned pets. RNL Bio was the first to clone a dog in 2005 when they created Snuppy, a trained drug-sniffer. Scientists took genetic material from an ear cell of Snuppy’s parent and placed it into an empty egg cell. The egg was then stimulated to begin dividing, implanted into a surrogate mother, and brought to term. Snuppy joins Dolly the sheep and a growing number of rats, pigs, cows, horses, and cats.
BioArts has already created three cloned dogs and is ready to clone five more at $100,000 each. RNL Bio created seven narcotic detection dogs at a total cost of $300,000 and their marketing director Cho Seong-ryul believes that technology improvements could one day lower prices to $50,000 per dog.
Pet cloning is a two-step process. First, gene banking is necessary to freeze and store the pet’s DNA. This includes a tissue-sampling kit priced from $325 to $1,300; plus $20 monthly storage. These services are available from Forever Pets, Lazeron, Cyagra, and Perpetuate. The final step includes the actual cloning. (cont.)
In 2004 University of Phoenix owner John Sperling founded Genetic Savings and Clone and successfully cloned three cats for $50,000 each; but even after lowering the price to $32,000, Sperling could not generate enough sales, so he folded the business in 2006. But forward-thinkers predict that this fledgling industry will eventually mature, and affordable pricing – about $1,000 for cats; $3,000 for dogs – could be achieved.
Opponents to this technology say that it demonstrates just how fast the world of genetics is moving and we should not underestimate the far-reaching consequences; but advocates argue that pet cloning will help us understand more about human disease.
RNL Bio cloning team member Gerald Schatten said, “If we develop the ability to derive stem cells from cloned dog embryos, man’s best friend could speed development of new stem cell therapies.”
Psychiatrists see huge positive values in pet cloning. Some owners become so attached to their pets, that life becomes extremely difficult when the pet dies. A cloned copy rekindles the bonding and companionship that people shared with their original pet and helps eliminate dangerous depression.
But experts warn, although a clone is an exact genetic copy, it will not have the same memories, or temperament; but these details don’t seem to bother most pet owners. As long as the general look and build are alike, most feel satisfied that some part of their pet lives on in the clone, and they anxiously look forward to showering it with love.
While pet cloning may not be the most important application for all the scientific know-how it represents, it will teach us what to expect should we ever discover a reason for cloning humans in the future. But let’s hold that controversial thought for another article.