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.
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.