In the past, cloning was used primarily for research, but more recently, it has become commercialised—specifically by Sooam Biotech, a South Korean business offering the service of creating furry carbon copies of beloved animals for the market of devoted paw-rents. It sounds like a dream come true, but can cloning really “bring back” your late furkid?
HERE'S HOW CLONING IS CARRIED OUT AT SOOAM:
- Cell samples are collected from the dog to be cloned, preferably from a live host or one that has been dead for no more than five days.
- An egg donor is put under general anaesthesia, and eggs are surgically obtained. Thereafter, the genetic material is extracted from it.
- The genetic material from the dog to be cloned is then inserted into the “blank” egg. The donor cells and the egg are zapped with electricity to fuse them together.
- The clone embryo is transplanted into a surrogate mother via surgery, and she carries the puppy for the full-term of pregnancy.
- After 60 days, the surrogate goes through a caesarean section to deliver the cloned puppy.
The most common issue detractors have with cloning is the health and wellness of all the furkids involved in the process. First, there is the egg donor dog that goes under the knife to have her eggs flushed out of her uterus for the procedure. Then, lying next to her in the operating theatre is the surrogate dog—usually a mongrel because they have bigger uteruses and sturdier physiques—which has the clone embryo surgically implanted in her womb. Once the puppy is due, the clone will be delivered via caesarean section. BioArts International—a Californian company that used to offer dog cloning services through Sooam until 2009—stated in a public statement that cloning was very unpredictable, and often resulted in “defective” dogs. BioArts' CEO, Lou Hawthorne, says that he has witnessed cases where the clone of a black-and-white dog turned out green-and-yellow, while a clone that was supposed to be male turned out female.
While the verdict is still out on the ethical front, it's apparent that as long as there's demand, there will always be supply. Perhaps to the handful that are willing to fork out hundreds of thousands for Sooam’s services, just being able to have and hold a furkid that is physically identical to the one they loved and lost is salve for the soul. For those who are still recovering from the loss of a beloved furkid, why not contemplate one of the many shelter pooches that are currently looking for a warm, loving forever home? While it may not look exactly the same as your dearly departed pet, your new addition will no doubt bring healing and joy to you.
Want to hear about what Sooam had to say for themselves? Flip to Pet Cause (p66) of our Feb-Mar 2016 issue for the full story.