Animal cloning: what is animal cloning and how much does it cost? | Explanatory

If you’ve ever attended a 9th grade science class, you know the case of dolly the sheep.

Dolly, a mutton, was not a future regular mutton chop. On the contrary, it was part of a series of experiments at the Roslin Institute conducted with the aim of improving the method of creating genetically modified cattle. She became the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell after being created from a cell taken from the mammary gland of a Finn Dorset sheep and an egg from a Scottish Blackface sheep.

Born via surrogate in 1996, the first sign she was a clone was her white face – if she was simply related to her mother, who had a black face, rather than an exact replica of the mammary gland cell , his face would have been black.

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Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, paved the way for commercial cloning of pets. (Getty)

Potential existential crises aside, it’s possible – like Dolly, who is named after an icon Dolly Parton due to her mammary origins and was put to sleep in February 2003 after tumors were found in her lungs – for your pet to be cloned. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What is pet cloning and how are pets cloned?

Pets, especially dogs, have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, and it makes sense that the prospect of losing your loved one after just seven to 15 years with them isn’t ideal. .

Those who can afford it, however, have the option of essentially reincarnating their beloved furbabies, at least physically. Commercial cloning of pets is a practice that began with Texas-based biotech company ViaGen in 2015, and the company offers customers a biopsy kit, which allows vets to take small tissue samples from pets. animal in a procedure that is, although invasive, unlikely. harm the animal.

Ideally tissue is taken from a living animal, because once the animal dies it quickly begins to degrade as bacteria attack without the defenses of the immune system – so often pet owners have to plan ahead. ‘advance.

Until samples are needed, the company cryogenically stores the cultured cells, and when it’s time to clone, the company takes a cell and replaces the nucleus from another cat or female dog egg with one -this. The cell and the egg come together, and then an embryo genetically identical to the original animal begins to develop.

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Adorable photos of animals that look just like their owners

A surrogate dog or cat then has the embryo implanted, and the clone is born naturally once the pregnancy is full term, and is inspected by the company to ensure it is in good health.

In terms of lifespan, clones are expected to have a normal, natural life, although if the original pet had genetic diseases, they will continue, as will genetic risk factors. .

Personality, however, is not something that is 100% guaranteed to be the same between the two. Temperament is partially determined by genetics, but more of it is due to environment – just look at the cases of identical twins. However, if the same person raises the clone under the same circumstances as the original pet, there is room for overlap, but although the animals may look identical and are, by all accounts, exact genetic twins, they don’t have the exact same character, which is something ethicists are urging pet owners to consider.

How much does cloning a pet cost?

Besides the ethical ramifications, there’s a reason why pet cloning hasn’t completely taken off – it’s not financially accessible to everyone.

ViaGen charges $50,000 (about $66,300) to clone a dog, $30,000 (about $40,000) for a cat, and $85,000 (about $113,000) for a horse, before taxes. To preserve genetic material, ViaGen charges around $1,600 (about $2,100), not including the cost of the biopsy kit or vet fees.

Some notable figures, however, have been willing to shell out the cash. In 2018, Barbra Streisand has revealed that she managed to clone her deceased dogSamantha, twice with ViaGen.

It was also reported by The sun in 2018 that Simon Cowell cloned “100%” of his Yorkshire terriers.

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Barbra Streisand’s dogs, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, are clones of her late dog Samantha.

Is pet cloning legal and ethical?

Although pet cloning is not illegal in Australia, it is not currently available. Australian animal lovers must therefore look to the United States, United Kingdom, China and South Korea for the possibility of storing the DNA and/or cloning of their pets. their pets and budget for them accordingly.

The ethics surrounding pet cloning, however, is where the seemingly innocent idea and relatively simple process comes to light, and why many customers choose to remain anonymous about the circumstances surrounding their newly acquired furry friends. acquired.

Cloning dogs, for example, is not as simple as cloning sheep, due to their specific reproductive process. In 2005, the first successful dog cloning took place in South Korea by a team that produced a pair of Afghan hound puppies from the skin of an ear of a dog, Tai. However, one of the puppies died soon after from pneumonia, but the second, Snuppy, lived 10 years.

Dolly died when she was six years old, which is usually half the lifespan of an average sheep. Tai’s genetic risk factors were passed down to Snuppy, who died of the same cancer that killed him at age 12 – although if you think about it too much, it usually turns into a eugenics debate, but it doesn’t. is not strange in a world where pedigrees are proud.

Then there’s the fact that, even regardless of the original animal, egg donor, and surrogate carrier, the process of cloning dogs in particular requires multiple dogs to produce a single clone, as many cloned pregnancies do not settle in the womb or, like Snuppy’s twin, die soon after birth.

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Snuppy all those years ago was the successful result of more than 1,000 embryos implanted into 123 surrogate mothers, according to the American scientist. Hormonal and surgical procedures and pregnancies on laboratory animals are not insignificant in terms of the consequences on the body.

Likewise, due to the likelihood of miscarriages or birth defects, it’s not unusual for multiple embryos to be implanted into a surrogate – so what happens to the reserve if multiple healthy clones are born?

Jessica Pierce, a bioethicist, opposes pet cloning, saying the industry has created “a whole canine subclass that remains largely invisible to us but whose bodies serve as biological substrate” in an op-ed for the New York Times.

CheMyong Jay Ko, who advised on Snuppy’s case, however, noted in his 2017 paper with his co-authors regarding Snuppy that there are legitimate circumstances – beyond not wanting to part with a beloved pet – where cloning could be beneficial, for example, needing to have multiple same dogs for research, clone an endangered species for conservation, or breed a service dog that has a rare and desirable ability.

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