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Five Boogers: Pet cloning a success

 Former beauty queen Bernann McKinney met the five clones of her deceased pit bull Booger in Korea today — three of which she plans to take home to California as pets.

 ”It’s a miracle!” McKinney repeatedly shouted when she saw the cloned Boogers at the Seoul National University laboratory where the first dog in the world was cloned in 2005.

 My story on McKinney, and the ongoing dispute over dog cloning, appears in today’s Baltimore Sun.

 The arrival of Boogers one through five marks the first cloning of a  household dog for a private customer. The dogs were unveiled at a press conference in Seoul today.

  McKinney agreed to pay $150,000 for the cloning of her beloved Booger, who she says saved her from an attack by another dog and went on to become her service dog as she recuperated from her injuries.

 The company that cloned her dog, RNL Bio, later agreed to reduce the fee to $50,000 in exchange for her cooperation in publicizing the achievement.

 Seoul-based RNL Bio said the puppies, cloned in cooperation with a team of Seoul National University scientists, were born last week.

 ”Yes, I know you! You know me, too!” McKinney said joyfully, hugging the puppies, which were sleeping with one of their two surrogate mothers, both Korean mixed breed dogs.

 The team of scientists working for RNL Bio is headed by Lee Byeong-chun, a former colleague of disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk, who scandalized the scientific community when breakthroughs he claimed to have made in cloning human stem cells were revealed as fake in 2005.

 Hwang now runs his own foundation and has joined forces with an American company, BioArts International, to clone dogs. BioArts disputes that Booger was the first commercially cloned dog. Its CEO, Lou Hawthorne, has three clones of his family dog, Missy. It also claims RNL Bio is infringing on its cloning patents.

 RNL Bio, which also maintains it is the sole company authorized to clone dogs, said that its cloning of Booger was the first successful commercial cloning of a canine, and that they expect it to lead to more orders.

 ”RNL Bio is commencing its worldwide services with Booger as its first successful clone,” the company said in a statement.

 RNL Bio’s president, Ra Jeong-chan, said his firm eventually aims to clone about 300 dogs per year and is also interested in duplicating camels for customers in the Middle East.

 To see a BBC video of McKinney and the pups, click here.

Comments

Comment from bluhawkk
Time August 5, 2008 at 11:42 am

On one level this is no worse that the abhorrent practice of designer breeding that has been going on forever.

On the other hand it is insanity and the epitome of selfishness when so many animals (dogs/cats) in the US are destroyed yearly numbering in the millions, that someone spends thousands to engineer a dog.

Ironic that Korea is doing the cloning. She is taking 3 home. Will the remaining end up on someone’s table?

Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time August 5, 2008 at 2:11 pm

I just can’t see how cloning dogs is helpful. I’m betting that there’s not a person reading this who hasn’t lost a much-loved dog. We grieve over them years later, and we miss them terribly. But is getting an artificial version of the same dog the answer? Maybe part of what makes humans and dogs so devoted is that our normal lifespans are so different.

As for cloning dogs with various areas of expertise, I’m about to write heresy here. It seems to me that Nature has provided us with a proven method for getting the best dogs with the characteristics we’re looking for. You simply carefully evaluate the best of the best and allow them to become parents. Two hundred years ago, if a shepherd had a great sheepdog, he would look around his neighborhood for a great sheepdog of the opposite sex, and a line of great sheepdogs would be founded. This is the way Nature intended it to work, and it’s a lot less wasteful and a lot more certain than cloning.

The rest of us don’t need bomb sniffing or drug sniffing or termite or bedbug sniffing or police dogs. We’ll be a lot better off giving a home to a dog who needs one, and enjoying to the fullest the time together that Nature has allotted us.

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time August 5, 2008 at 5:59 pm

There are likely some good reasons for cloning — particularly as it relates to controlling or conquering a multitude of human diseases — but NOT because we want to recreate that “wonderful” lamb chop or equally worse, the nighttime cuddles of our most beloved pets. I have owned 10 dogs since graduating from college and becoming an “adult.” Six have since passed on after many long years of unique personalities and offered comforts. As much as I would give anything for dogs to be able to live longer than the usual 12-14 years, and as much as I would give almost anything to have one more walk and cuddle with each of those who have passed, the thing about pets and dogs in general is this: You are a LUCKY person if each is utterly unique as a result of the breeds, the genes, whatever and wherever birthing,and the first six vital weeks of growth, let alone the added living that many of us rescue in adult pets and try to calm and tame. My current 4 dogs are mixed breeds of huge diversity, and they come equipped with incredibly different traits, habits and desires. Isn’t THAT what we all love? — the “quirk” that we rave about at water fountains and in emails (and blogs!). The things that maje our pets unique. Thanks so much for the past love…..but Hallelujah to the differences that encircle us petowners every day of our lives. Clone ahead to help your ailing aunt. But adopt and cherish a truly unique new buddy today.

Comment from Marie
Time August 5, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Reminder to author to watch Pet Cemetary and seek out the NPR/Showtime show, This American Life, about the Bull who was cloned. They never come back the same. Also, please adopt. :-)

Go here for the details.
http://www.tv.com/this-american-life/reality-check/episode/1025172/summary.html

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