If you were to pick up Jung Myoung Sook, her 200 dogs and her ramshackle hillside compound and plop them down in rural America, she’d be consider a hoarder for sure.
But in South Korea, where the dogs she’s caring for might well have otherwise ended up as meals in homes and restaurants, she’s really more of a saint.
Her neighbors don’t always feel that way, but I do.
Jung, who was featured on NBC Nightly News last week, has had to pack up and relocate seven times in the more than 25 years she has been rescuing dogs, due to complaints from those living nearby.
Jung picks ups strays living on the street, and she has also bought dogs that were headed to be sold for their meat.
The AP article said all the dogs in the compound appeared to be healthy.
While a small minority of South Koreans eat dog meat, dogs are raised on farms for that purpose, and can be bought, slaughtered and butchered at open-air markets.
While it has been six years since I visited one there, while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on dog cloning, I haven’t been able to get those images out of my head since.
Seeing Jung’s smiling face, and reading of her work, helps some.
“My babies aren’t hungry. They can play and live freely here,” said Jung, 61. “Some people talk about me, saying, ‘Why is that beggar-like middle-aged woman smiling all the time,’ but I just focus on feeding my babies. I’m happy and healthy.”
Posted by John Woestendiek February 9th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, cloning, cultural, culture, dog, dog meat, dogs, hoarder, hoarding, jung myoung sook, korea, markets, pets, rescue, sanctuary, shelter, south korea, strays
Ten years after a dog was first successfully cloned, scientists have managed to produce the world’s first litter of pups to be born through in vitro fertilization.
In July seven puppies were born through IVF at Cornell University — five beagles and two “bockers,” or beagle-cocker spaniel mixes.
The achievement was not revealed until this week with the release of the research study.
Seems like science would have happened the other way around — that a “test-tube” puppy would have premiered long before we entered the even more science fiction-like era of cloned dogs becoming available on the marketplace.
But, while IVF has been used for decades in other animals, including humans, scientists had never succeeded in using it to produce a newborn pup.
Previous attempts to use IVF in dogs had resulted in very low rates of fertilization, and no live births at all once IVF embryos were transferred to a host.
“Since the mid-1970s, people have been trying to do [IVF] in a dog and have been unsuccessful,” said co-author Alex Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health in Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
What made it so difficult were some of the same factors that proved challenging in cloning dogs — females only ovulate once or twice a year, and their eggs are not transparent, making it harder to see the structures inside of the egg.
The Cornell researchers, in a joint project with researchers from the Smithsonian Institution, found that by waiting an extra day for eggs to mature before extracting them, they met with more success.
Adding magnesium to the environment where the sperm and egg met also helped with fertilization, the team found, according to a Cornell press release.
The achievement was revealed this week in a study published online Dec. 9 in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.
The seven surviving puppies (out of 19 embryos) are genetically the offspring of two different fathers (a cocker spaniel and a beagle) and three different beagle mothers, carried by the same beagle surrogate.
Unlike cloning, which involves transferring an existing (or dead) dog’s DNA into a donor egg, IVF involves the creation of a new genome through fertilization. Each each animal has a unique set of DNA.
The researchers say the development will open the door for preserving endangered canid species using assisted reproduction techniques.
It could also enable researchers to eradicate heritable diseases in dogs and facilitate the study of genetic diseases in dogs and humans, they say.
(Photo: Cornell graduate student Jennifer Nagashima and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute research biologist Nucharin Songsasen — lead author and co-author of the study — walk some of the puppies born through IVF; by Jeffrey MacMillan / Cornell University)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 10th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, assisted, beagles, biology, bockers, cloned, clones, cloning, cocker spaniels, cornell, cornell university, dna, dog, dogs, egg, first, in vitro, in vitro fertilization, ivf, pets, puppies, pups, reproduction, research, science, sperm, study
First, scientists in South Korea brought us dog cloning — a chance, or so it was initially described, to use cells from your sick, dying or even dead dog to create the exact same dog again, in healthy puppy form.
It was a bad idea.
Now, scientists in China are hard at work on an equally worrisome one.
Chinese researchers report they have created a beagle with double the amount of muscle mass, through a process called “gene editing.”
Gene editing involves injecting embryos with a DNA snipping enzyme, Cas9, and a guide molecule that zeroes in on a particular stretch of DNA. The goal is to knock out the myostatin gene so a dog’s body can not produce any of the muscle-inhibiting protein that the gene manufactures.
The result, as they see it, is a Super Dog — useful to the police and military.
This is hardly the first time man has manipulated the species. We’ve been doing it for centuries by inbreeding them to create dogs that, while not necessarily healthier — and sometimes quite the opposite — better suit our needs and please our eyes.
But gene editing is, right up there with cloning, one of the more blatant, creepy and invasive routes man has taken.
And it prompts us to say, with more emotion than a scientist can probably understand: Dogs are already super, China. So leave them the hell alone.
To create one “super beagle,” the researchers injected more than 60 dog embryos. Less than half survived to birth. Of 27 puppies born, only two had the sought after disruption in their myostatin genes.
And in only one was the gene editing considered “complete,” said Liangxue Lai, a researcher at the Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health.
Custom made, genetically engineered dogs will have “more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications,” Lai is quoted as saying in the MIT Technology Review
Lai and 28 colleagues reported their results last week in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, saying they intend to create dogs with other DNA mutations, including ones that mimic human diseases such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy to be used in biomedical research.
South Korea’s dog cloners, in addition to cloning dogs for bereaved pet owners, are also creating dogs for the police and military, and dogs with diseases for research purposes.
Lai said his group had no plans breed to breed the extra-muscular beagles as pets. But, as the Review article points out, that wouldn’t stop others from moving to commercialize the gene-editing process.
A different Chinese Institute, BGI, said in September it had begun selling miniature pigs, created via gene editing, for $1,600 each as novelty pets.
And if gene editing follows the path of dog cloning, now available to dog owners for $100,000, its transition to marketplace will be swift an unregulated.
In addition to pigs, goats, rabbits, rats and monkeys have been engineered using gene editing in China, which considers the efforts a national scientific priority — much like South Korea did with dog cloning.
Lai’s team says the sole male dog they successfully produced, named Hercules, would pass the myostatin mutation on if he were to be bred.
“The favorable traits that result from gene editing can pass generation by generation,” says Lai.
“Favorable,” in this case, meaning what the researchers hoped for.
For the 33 embryos that didn’t survive, and perhaps for those that did, we’d hardly consider it favorable, or even necessary.
No dog lover should.
Edit your papers, scientists — not our dogs.
(Photo: Hercules, at left, and Tiangou, the world’s first gene-edited dogs, from MIT Technology Review)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 21st, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, beagles, china, chinese, cloning, dna, dogs, embryos, engineering, gene editing, genetic, genetics, injected, manipulation, muscles, pets, super dog
A golden retriever named Bretagne is all over the Internet today — today being 9/11 — looking much grayer around the muzzle than she did in 2001 and being described as the only search and rescue dog at the World Trade Center who is still living.
Whether that’s accurate depends on how you define “living.”
Not to pick nits, but there’s another dog, a German shepherd named Trakr — said by some to have found the last human survivor of the World Trade Center attack — who lives on … in a way.
Trakr was cloned in 2009, after his owner, a police officer turned actor, won an essay contest seeking the world’s most “cloneworthy” dog.
It’s a long story, one you can read about in the book, “DOG, INC.,” which recounts how dog cloning became a commercial enterprise.
Here’s the short version: Trakr was the partner of James Symington, a Halifax, Nova Scotia, police officer. When Trakr was retired, Symington claimed him as his own. On Sept. 11, 2001, after seeing news reports, Symington, without authorization from his department, took Trakr to the World Trade Center.
There, as Symington recounts it, Trakr discovered Genelle Guzman buried in the rubble — the last survivor found.
Others dispute his account.
Symington later moved to California to pursue a career in acting, taking Trakr with him. When an American company called BioArts announced it was holding a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” Symington submitted an essay, and won.
BioArts footed the bill (about $150,000) and sent samples of Trakr’s DNA to South Korean veterinarian Hwang Woo-Suk, who was on the team at Seoul National University that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy. He’d since been fired and opened his own laboratory, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.
Trakr’s DNA was inserted into five “surrogate” egg cells, each of which was zapped with electricity and implanted into a different female dog.
In June 2009 five clone puppies were born and, a few months later, delivered to Symington. He named them Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy, and Deja Vu, and said he planned to train them all as search as rescue dogs who would carry on Trakr’s legacy.
They seem to have fallen out of the limelight since then, and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated for a couple of years.
Earlier this year, the man who pushed dog cloning and sponsored the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in an apparent turnaround, said cloning dogs — a service still offered in South Korea — was not a viable, profitable, or humane pursuit, noting that it took up to 80 dogs to clone just one.
Lou Hawthorne headed BioArts, and spearheaded the earliest (unsuccessful) efforts to clone dog at Texas A&M University. That research was funded by University of Phoenix founder John Sperling, who died last month.
While some of the main characters involved in dog cloning seem to be fading from public view, from Trakr’s clones to Sperling, dog cloning is not — Sooam Biotech is still carrying out clonings for customers who want duplicates of their dead or dying pets, at a price that has dropped to about $100,000.
But back to the dog who is in the news — Bretagne. She returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, where they were interviewed by Tom Brokaw for NBC’s Today Show.
Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards, and later this month she’ll travel with her owner to Beverly Hills for the awards ceremony.
My hunch, and hope, is that Bretagne is not destined to be cloned, and that her owner realizes what many customers of dog cloning have not — every dog, and every person, is one of a kind. And one of a kind means one of a kind. That special something inside your dog can’t be re-created in a laboratory.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9-11, 911, animals, bioarts, bretagne, cloned, clones, cloning, death, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, golden clone giveaway, james symington, laboratory, last, life, living, pets, re-creating, rescue, search, search and rescue, September 11, sooam, surviving, trakr, world trade center
Daegyo, a Seoul restaurant famous for its dog meat-based offerings, is closing shop — just the latest sign that, as the popularity of dogs as pets increases in South Korea, the centuries-old tradition of eating them is on its way out.
Between the rise of a younger generation, with a deeper affinity to dogs as pets, and a burgeoning animal welfare movement, the consumption of dog meat has been declining steadily — so much so that the owner of Daegyo, at least, has come to see there’s no future in serving it to diners.
Oh Keum-il says Daegyo, which opened in a Seoul alley in 1981, will serve its last bowl of boshintang, or dog stew, today.
Oh, both chef and owner of the restaurant, is known for the dog meat dishes she developed and served for over three decades. But she has noticed that the popularity of dog meat is mostly limited to older customers.
“There is too much generational gap in boshintang. There are no young customers,” she is quoted as saying in an Associated Press report featured in USA Today.
“The closure of Oh’s restaurant, dubbed by a local newspaper as the “Holy Land of boshintang” and frequented by two former presidents, Lee Myung-bak and late Roh Moo-hyun, shows one view of dogs is gaining more traction among young South Koreans,” the article reports.
Oh plans to reopen her restaurant as a Korean beef barbecue diner.
It’s has been estimated more than 2 million dogs are killed each year for their meat in South Korea.
Butcher Shin Jang-gun, who supplies dog meat to restaurants, said the number of merchants selling dog meat has shrunk to half of what it was. Between 700 and 800 restaurants in Seoul now serve it, he said. Once more than 1,500 did.
“Dog is not an industry with a long-term future,” Shin said. “New generations don’t eat a lot.”
Dogs are still raised as meat on farms in South Korea, and they are still killed and butchered to order at street markets in and around Seoul.
At the same time, about one in five South Korean households now have a cat or dog as a pet, and economic forecasters say that number is increasing. One institute says the pet industry is expected to grow six-fold — from less than a billion to about six billion dollars — between 2012 and 2020.
South Korea is also where dog was first cloned, and the only country in which dogs are being cloned. Farm raised dogs were frequently used as surrogates and egg cell donors as that industry came into existence — not to produce meat, but to allow bereaved pet owners to get laboratory-made duplicates of their dogs.
(Photo: Lee Jin-Man / Associated Press)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 29th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, boshintang, cloning, closing, daegyo, dog, dog farms, dog inc., dog meat, dogs, eating dogs, generational, oh keum-il, pets, popularity, restaurants, seoul, serving, south korea, stop, tradition
One of the men behind the push to clone dogs — and market the service to bereaved pet owners — seems more convinced than ever that doing so was, if not a mistake, at least a quest that led to some bad places.
Lou Hawthorne, who established a cell bank (Genetic Savings & Clone) and pushed researchers at Texas A&M University to try and clone the world’s first dog in the late 1990s — in hopes of turning dog cloning into a profitable business — said in an interview last week that cloning has led to thousands of dogs suffering each year.
“A cloned dog contributes to the happiness of a family but I do not think it is possible to do it without a huge amount of suffering to hundreds of others,” Hawthorne told The Mirror, which was reporting on the first dog cloning for a customer in the UK.
Hawthorne has been out of the dog cloning business since shutting down BioArts, the successor to Genetic Savings & Clone, which closed not long after efforts to clone a dog at Texas A&M were dropped.
That research was funded by John Sperling, the wealthy founder of the University of Phoenix and the boyfriend of Hawthorne’s mother. Millions of dollars were poured into the attempt to clone Joan Hawthorne’s dog, Missy, a husky-border collie mix.
They picked up where American scientists left off, and dog cloning was achieved within two years with the 2005 birth of Snuppy, an Afghan hound manufactured from cells taken from a veterinary student’s dog.
Hawthorne, under the auspices of Bio Arts, later teamed up with Hwang Woo Suk, one of the lead scientists on the Snuppy project who opened his own lab after being fired from the university.
First, he had Hwang clone Missy, resulting in a dog named Mira, but when the clone was delivered to Joan Hawthorne she didn’t want her. She told a New York Times reporter at the time the puppy was too rambunctious.
Then Hawthorne and Hwang teamed up to produce and sell more clones. They held a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in which a free cloning was offered to the winner of an essay contest, and an online auction where five winning bidders, offering upwards of $150,000, had their dogs cloned.
A second South Korean company RNL Bio, with help from another of Snuppy’s creators at SNU, was also cloning dogs — and it produced the first one sold to a customer not connected to the industry, a pit bull named Booger, five copies of which were cloned from the dead dog and, eventually, brought home by the California woman who owned him.
RNL pulled out of cloning pet dogs in 2011, not long after the publication of my book, “DOG, INC: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
Hawthorne had already stepped away from the business by then. In September of 2009, Hawthorne pulled out of the partnership with Hwang, citing, among other reasons, his concerns that accepted animal welfare protocols — or at least those accepted by most Western countries — weren’t being followed by the South Koreans.
He also, at the time, blamed court fights over patent rights, the high cost of cloning, deformities and abnormalities that occurred in the cloning process, and what he called the “distraction factor” — annoying questions from the media and bloggers about the wisdom and ethics of cloning dogs.
(As a newspaper reporter who wrote one of the earliest articles on commercial dog cloning, then a blogger, and then the author of “Dog, Inc.,” an expose of the dog cloning industry, I’m pretty sure that latter group included me.)
In his interview wih the Mirror, Hawthorne referred to the vast numbers of dogs that it took — up to 80, he said — to clone just one.
And, he said, random dogs used for cloning by Korean researchers were returned to the dog farms they were borrowed from — farms where dogs are raised for their meat.
“That is why I got out,” Hawthorne said. “I couldn’t care less if the cloning business world collapses but I care about suffering.”
Sooam told me, in 2009, that dogs used in the process were returned to the farms. In more recent years, however, Sooam has insisted that both the dogs from whom egg cells are harvested, and those who serve as surrogate mothers, are sent to adoptive homes when their use in the laboratory is completed.
Hawthorne’s remarks came after the birth of Mini Winnie, a dachshund cloned by Hwang’s lab for a London resident who won a contest sponsored by Sooam. As Sooam attempts to spread the word about its unusual service, Hawthorne has taken to speaking out against it.
Hawthorne now cares for two clones of Missy — Mira and Missy Too.
The Mirror reports Hawthorne has more recently been working on cures for human cancer and Alzheimer’s, and the newspaper quoted him as saying human cloning would be safer and more viable than dog cloning.
“Unlike the dog industry, no human would die.”
(Photos: Lou Hawthorne with Mira; Snuppy at Seoul National University, James Symington, winner of the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” with five clones of his former police dog, TrakR, in Los Angeles; Mira at the dog park; by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 16th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, bioengineering, clone, cloned, cloning, cloning dogs, cost, dog cloning, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, ethics, first, hwang woo suk, interview, james symington, john woestendiek, lou hawthorne, mini winnie, mira, mirror, missy, missy too, pets, science, seoul national university, snuppy, sooam, technology, texas a&m university, trakr, uk
With more than 500 canine clones now roaming the world, you wouldn’t think the fact that one has been produced for a pet owner in the UK would make such a big splash.
But it has, and a big splash is just what the cloners had in mind.
To introduce its unique service to Britain, Sooam Biotech, the South Korean laboratory that’s now the only company cloning dogs, borrowed from an earlier chapter in dog cloning’s bizarre history. It held a public contest, awarding a free cloning as the grand prize.
The winner: Rebecca Smith, 29, of London, who learned in late March that a clone of her 12-year-old dachshund Winnie had been born in a Seoul laboratory, BBC reported.
She named the dog Mini Winnie.
The competition saw dog owners submit videos of their dogs and compete for the chance to “immortalize” their pet for free. The bill for dog cloning normally runs around $100,000.
“Sooam Biotech is looking for one person with the most special and inspiring reason for cloning his/her beloved dog,” the company said in announcing the contest.
The contest was similar to one held in the U.S. when dog cloning first hit the market. It was called the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” and the winner was TrakR, a search and rescue dog whose owner said the German shepherd found the last survivor in the rubble of 9/11.
The weird and wacky story of how dog cloning was achieved, how it was marketed, and the first customers to sign up for it can be found in my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
The UK’s first canine clone — who won’t arrive in the country until after a 6-month quarantine period — was cloned at Sooam Biotech, a laboratory run by Hwang Woo Suk, who was a member of the Seoul National University team that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy, in 2005.
That research began after an earlier effort to clone a dog in the U.S., at Texas A&M University, was unsuccessful.
The Texas A&M research was funded by John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix. After cloning a cat, and assorted farm animals, the Texas A&M efforts to clone a dog were called off, but Sperling’s front man, who had established a company to store the cells of dead and dying dogs (Genetic Savings & Clone), even before dog cloning was achieved, later teamed up Hwang and Sooam to offer an online auction, with the highest bidders receiving clones of their dogs.
Hwang founded his lab after getting fired from Seoul National University when his claim to have produced the world’s first cloned human embryos was deemed fraudulent. He was later convicted of embezzling research funds and illegally buying human eggs, but his 18-month sentence was suspended.
Hwang has more recently has embarked on trying to clone a woolly mammoth from 10,00-year-old remains found frozen in Siberia.
Meanwhile, he’s churning out laboratory-created dogs, more than 500 of which have been born to surrogate mother dogs at his lab and kennel.
To create Mini Winnie, a piece of skin was taken from Winnie and transported to Seoul. Cells from the sample were placed inside an anonymous donor dog’s egg cell and, with a jolt of electricity, they merged.
Then the embryo was implanted inside a surrogate dog that gave birth, via Caesarean, to Winnie on March 30.
“The world would be a better place with more Winnies in it,” Smith, 29, says in a Channel 4 documentary, “The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
Smith received the original Winnie as a present on her 18th birthday, and she says the dog helped her overcome “lots of demons,” including an eating disorder. Smith says Mini Winnie looks identical to the original, who is old and arthritic, but still alive.
Hundreds of pet owners have had dogs cloned since the first customer, a California woman who received five copies of her dead pit bull, Booger.
Critics of the process say cloning doesn’t result in the resurrection of an animal, but a laboratory-made twin, whose creation requires the involvement of numerous other dogs, and who might not act like the original at all.
Initially, two South Korean companies were cloning dogs for pet owners (and even more for research purposes), but one of the, RNL Bio, has pulled out of the dog-cloning business.
While the cloning process has grown more efficient, some animal welfare groups say risks are still high.
Dr Katy Taylor, Head of Science at The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: “Cloning is a very unpredictable and extremely wasteful process … In order to produce just one ‘perfect’ clone, many puppies with the same genes as a loved animal will be born … Some of these puppies will be aborted or will die soon after birth from unpredictable health complications and severe birth defects.”
Defective pups, and the South Korean laboratory’s failure to follow animal welfare protocols, were among the reasons cited by the American company that teamed up with Hwang for pulling out of its dog cloning arrangement.
The documentary, while it mostly follows the judges as they visit with contestants and their dogs, does go some interesting places, including Edinburg, for an interview with Sir Ian Wilmut, cloner of Dolly the sheep. Wilmut doesn’t endorse pet cloning, and says he remains skeptical of it, saying it will lead to lots of disappointed customers who, despite their hopes, won’t get an animal with the same personality as the original.
There’s also an interview with a pet owner, not a contestant, who views dog cloning as a Hitleresque pursuit, and there are several allusions to the fact that some Koreans eat dog meat.
“The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend” was made by the same independent production company that produced “I Cloned My Pet,” several episodes of which appeared on TLC.
“The £60,000 Puppy” is an improvement over those productions, which brushed aside most ethical questions and animal welfare concerns about pet cloning. While the new documentary doesn’t delve too deeply into them either, it does present something more than a one-sided view.
Like the earlier documentaries, it reinforces that most customers of dog cloning are, shall we say, eccentric sorts, and that their attachment to their dogs — as with all of us — is a powerful one.
Perhaps the most telling moment, though, comes as the judges debate — American Idol style — the public relations benefits of each contestant.
After that, the winner is … after a long, long pause … announced.
Cloning, it seems, is no longer some futuristic pipedream. It has become a reality, and apparently an entertainment form.
My view? Cloning is no game show, or at least it shouldn’t be.
(Photos: Top, Mini Winnie / Channel 4; middle, Hwang in his lab / John Woestendiek; bottom; Smith and the original Winnie / Channel 4)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, biotech, book, canine, cells, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, contest, customers, dog cloning, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, free cloning, great britain, hwang woo suk, laboratory, marketing, pets, science, seoul, seoul national university, snuppy, sooam, technology, uk