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Would you clone your dog? People have been doing this for 20 years

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Nearly 30 years ago, the famous Dolly the sheep was born as a result of cloning. This laid the foundations for a dynamically developing branch of science. It also started a completely new business that is becoming increasingly popular. Horses can be cloned for about $85,000, dogs and cats for $50,000. There is no shortage of people willing to do so. He describes their experiences in the latest issue of “The New Yorker”.

On July 5, 1996, in the Scottish village of Roslin near Edinburgh, she was born Dolly the sheep. She was the first mammal in the world cloned from somatic cells taken from an adult. She had no father, but three mothers. One was a donor of genetic material, the second of an egg, and the third was carrying Dolly in her belly.

This was an unprecedented event for modern science. It proved that it is possible to clone an animal based on genetic material taken from any part of another individual's body. Previously, animals were reproduced only using embryonic cells. Since the success of Ian Wilmut i Keith Campbell – scientists behind the birth of the famous sheep – at least a dozen species of mammals have already been replicated, including: cows, pigs, rabbits, monkeyscamels, horses, cats and dogs.

Dog cloning is becoming more and more popular

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In the case of dogs – due to their specific reproductive process – replication was more complicated. Ultimately, however, this barrier was overcome. In 2005, two cloned Afghan hounds were born in South Korea. One of them died shortly after birth. The second one – Snuppy – lived for a whole decade, only two years younger than the individual from whom the genetic material was taken. His DNA was also used to create four more clones.

SEE ALSO: He cloned Dolly and he doesn't regret it. “I would do the same today”

Hwang Woo Suk, South Korean veterinarian, one of the pioneers of cloning (left)KYUNGHYANG SHINMUN/EPA/PAP

According to the work of scientists from the UAE BIOTECH Research Center in the United Arab Emirates, published in 2022, representatives of up to 20 percent of breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the largest cynological organization in the United States, have already been cloned. The exact number of dogs replicated is unknown. However, it is estimated that it amounts to over two thousand. Commercially, most treatments are performed in South Korea and the United States. IN USA ViaGen has been dealing with this since 2015.

What is the process of cloning dogs?

ViaGen describes replication as a way to create “your dog's genetic twin, born at a later date.” The company's clients, reached by The New Yorker, describe it as “a way to come to terms with the passing of a beloved pet” or to preserve its “essence.” How does cloning a dog work?

Cloning involves taking genetic material from the dog that we want to “duplicate” (such material can be frozen and used even after many years) and taking an egg cell from another individual and replacing the DNA present in it with that from the “duplicated” animal. The resulting hybrid is stimulated to divide with an electrical impulse and grows in the laboratory until the embryo can be implanted into the surrogate's uterus. After taking hormones or contact with a previously neutered male, she gives birth to a clone.

SEE ALSO: A factory pet. “We don't just clone dogs, we heal broken hearts”

The exact number of dogs replicated is unknown. However, it is estimated that it amounts to over two thousand. (illustrative photo)Shutterstock

Cloning dogs is controversial

However, the practice of animal cloning is controversial. They are related to, among others: with the fact that the dog's replication requires the use of at least two other bitches – an egg donor and a gestational carrier. However, this number is often higher. Cloning is successful only about 20 percent of the time. “The process involves procedures that may cause animals pain, suffering and distress, with little regard for their well-being,” says the British animal welfare organization Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) on its website. He also points out that, according to selected studies, cloned animals are more susceptible to diseases than naturally born individuals.

Critics of cloning also claim that although it allows for faithful reproduction of the physical characteristics of the original, it is unable to preserve the character of the replicated animal. It is shaped by many factors. – An animal is much more than just its DNA. Cloned animals will inevitably differ in life experiences and, consequently, in character, says Penny Hawkins, an RSPCA animal welfare expert, in an interview with the BBC. “The personality, uniqueness and nature of animals simply cannot be replicated,” echoes Elisa Allen, vice president of the animal rights group at PETA.

SEE ALSO: Three 'super cows' cloned. They can produce up to 18 tons of milk per year

Why do people clone their pets?

The owners of cloned dogs themselves are also aware of this. Talking to Alexandra Horowitz from The New Yorker, Zehra Peynircioglu, the owner of Jonika, a copy of her previous pet JonJon, admitted that when she decided to replicate her beloved pet, she knew she “wouldn't get another JonJon.” – However, I believed that I would gain his essence – says the woman.

John Mendola – the owner of Princess Ariel and Princess Jasmine, female dogs that are copies of his late Princess – admitted in a conversation with Horowitz that he decided to use ViaGen's services a few months after the death of his pet, with whom he “had a special bond”. “I've never had a dog that was so loving,” the man added, remembering Princess. He also admitted that he was also encouraged to clone it by the 20 percent discount that the American company offered its services in 2018. Currently it charges $50,000 for replicating dogs (equivalent to over PLN 200,000). It costs the same to clone a cat there. In the case of horses, the procedure is more expensive. We are talking about USD 85,000 (approx. PLN 340,000).

Due to prices, ViaGen's clientele is limited. A large part of it are stars, celebrities and influencers. They include, among others: Barbra Streisand. The American singer owns it two dogs, which are copies of her previous pet Samantha. “It was easier for me to say goodbye to Sammie knowing that in some way I would be able to keep some part of her alive,” Streisand wrote in a column for the New York Times, justifying the decision to replicate the deceased dog. “I was so devastated by the loss of my dear Samantha after 14 years spent together that I wanted to keep her with me in some way,” the artist added.

SEE ALSO: The Chinese have cloned pigs that glow at night.

BBC, The New Yorker, tvn24.pl

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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