Should I clone my dog?
Here you can now have your deceased dog cloned
For dog owners, the death of their companion is a great shock. Anyone who wants can now order a living copy. But that has its price. The world's leading commercial dog cloning company is based in South Korea.
Cloning dogs almost a routine
The South Korean organization "Sooam Biotech Research Foundation" in Seoul deals extensively with the cloning of dogs and other animals. Although the focus of the research is on the resurrection of primeval animals, the cloning of dogs has almost become a factory routine for "Sooam" and its commercial sister company "H Bion". Around 900 dogs have been cloned here since it was founded in 2006. The cost of a cloned dog can run up to $ 100,000. A buyer from the Middle East ordered five Persian greyhounds at once, costing half a million dollars.
Most wealthy customers come from all over the world, but more than half are from the United States, explains Wang. There are numerous celebrities among them, but most of them want to remain anonymous. They come with a desire that their dead pet will come back to life. "We're creating an identical twin, some say: The dead will be brought back," says biologist Wang Jae Woon, press officer at Sooam Biotech Research Foundation. "But is it the same dog? Yes and no, that is very subjective."
This is what the researchers do
When cloning, the researchers take the genetic material from a body cell of the donor dog and transfer it to an egg cell from which the nucleus has been removed beforehand. The embryo created in the laboratory is then implanted in the uterus of another animal that carries it to term.
The removal of the cell nucleus from an egg cell is openly demonstrated under the microscope up to the point of birth. During the operation, team leader Hwang Woo Suk explains every step: For example, when he performs a caesarean section on a large brown mixed breed dog lying on her back on the operating table, numb. "Everything is perfect," says Hwang with satisfaction after the newborn begins to sound. The success rate that a "surrogate mother" becomes pregnant is around 40 percent, according to Sooam.
The research past of the 64-year-old veterinarian, who presented the world's first clone dog "Snuppy" in August 2005 - nine years after the birth of the clone sheep Dolly - is overshadowed by one of the biggest science scandals of recent decades. The cloning pioneer was once celebrated as a national hero in his homeland because he and his team were said to be the world's first researcher to extract human stem cells from cloned embryos. But at the end of 2005, two stem cell studies were found to be forgeries. Hwang was later sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence.
Today his company is regarded as a world leader in the field of the not uncontroversial commercial cloning of dogs by animal rights activists. "The process involves scientific procedures that cause pain, suffering and agony," writes the British animal welfare group Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Animal welfare is not always taken into account.
Cloning for Research
Sooam isn't just about pets kept for pleasure, however. Cloning dogs for "special purposes" is less controversial. They are used as sniffer dogs by the police or the military. Pigs and dogs are also cloned that carry certain diseases on which medicines can be tested. The idea behind it is to change the genes of animals in such a way that they correspond to certain "disease models" in order to then use them for basic bioscientific or medical research. Cloning is a "growing business," says Hwang.
Will there be cloned dinosaurs soon?
The South Koreans have been working with a university in Siberia on a sensational mammoth project since 2012. The hope is to find a reasonably intact DNA kit in tissue samples from mammoth remains from the Siberian permafrost, which could enable the cloning of this extinct Ice Age elephant species. "The status of the project is a secret," says Wang.
However, there will be no Jurassic Park for cloned dinosaurs like in Steven Spielberg's Hollywood film. It is unrealistic to find cells from one of the giant lizards, which died out around 65 million years ago, and which contain the genetic material DNA, says Wang.
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