Jurassic Bark! Attack of the [Canine] Clones! Mutt-iplicity! The doggie clone jokes write themselves, folks.
With that out of the way, the latest news in the scientific community regarding the topic of animal cloning is serious futuristic business. LiveScience reports that South Korean scientists recently announced the birth of three clone puppies, all of which are identical copies of “Snuppy,” the original cloned dog.
Snuppy — named by combining “Seoul National University,” where he was born, and the word “puppy” — was produced via somatic cell nuclear transfer, the same technique used to create Dolly the sheep. The Afghan hound, born on April 24, 2005, was the first clone of his species. Hailed a miracle of science at the time (Dolly came first in 1996, followed by various other mammals), dog cloning initially stumped researchers, as their breeding period was short and their eggs hard to retrieve. After a fairly normal life, Snuppy died of cancer in April of 2015, just weeks after celebrating his 10th birthday. (Snuppy’s “cell donor,” Tai, lived to age 12, which is about the average lifespan of an Afghan hound.)
When he was 5 years old, scientists re-cloned Snuppy using the hound’s stem cells. So, in a way, Snuppy (and Tai) lives on in perpetuity through the trio of pups born last year.
“Three healthy re-clones of Snuppy are alive, and as with Snuppy we do not anticipate that the re-clones will go through an accelerated rate of aging or will be more prone to develop diseases than naturally bred animals,” the team wrote in the Nov. 10 edition of Scientific Reports, published on Nature.com.
Although Dolly only lived to age 6, and cloned mice have experienced shortened lifespans, the scientists at Seoul National University appear confident that Snuppy’s puppies will go the distance. The authors of the study add that these second-generation clones of Snuppy will usher in a new era of advancement regarding cloned animals’ health and longevity
How their findings will affect human beings, however, was not discussed. Cloning people remains illegal, and CheMyong Jay Ko, one of the study’s co-authors, said “we do not imagine using these technologies for cloning humans.”
Boethicist Arthur Caplan told National Post that the “battle over humans” will be more geared toward genetic engineering, not cloning.
“What we’ll see is more attempts to engineer humans [through gene-editing techniques like CRISPR],” he said. “There may be an occasional single oddball that wants to clone themselves to reproduce, but it’s going to be on the margins.”
Caplan says doesn’t think human cloning has a bright future, but thinks “cloning animals does.”
One needn’t look into a crystal ball to know that Caplan is correct. The Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea is already busy on that front, as is Texas company Viagen Pets, which will clone your pup for $50,000. But, as the Washington Post reports, cat clones only cost about half that … something to consider when it comes time to re-clone Miss Kitty, perhaps.