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Dog cloning reopens controversy

Genetic Crossroads
August 4th, 2005

The research team headed by Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea, which recently made news when it derived stem cells from cloned human embryos, announced the world's first cloned dog on August 3. The researchers transferred 1,095 cloned embryos into 123 surrogates to yield the puppy, a 1.6% birth rate similar to rates in some of the other ten mammalian species that have been cloned.

Hwang told Reuters that their goal is "to produce cloned dogs for (studying) disease models, not only for humans, but also for animals." But other scientists and virtually every news report raised the prospect of cloning pet dogs. Genetic Savings and Clone, a Bay Area gene banking and pet cloning business, has previously promised to add dog cloning to its cat cloning services by December 2005.

Many early accounts of the dog cloning adopted a jocular tone. Sample headlines included "Give a clone a bone" and "1st cloned dog takes a bow-wow." But animal welfare advocates harshly criticized the development. Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, commented, "This technology could lead to a brave new world of puppy production if it were hijacked by profiteers seeking to use cloning to supply the pet trade."

Hwang and other scientists involved in the dog cloning project issued statements of opposition to human reproductive cloning. But Ian Wilmut, the University of Edinburgh scientist who produced the first cloned mammal in 1997, told the Associated Press that the development "confirms the general impression that it would be possible to clone any mammalian species, including humans," and acknowledged the "delicate issue" of "how to extend research without crossing the moral boundary of duplicating human life in the lab." Nigel Cameron, director of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future, noted in the New York Times that "there's sort of a dry run here for the human cloning debate. What we do with dogs we may well end up doing with our kids."

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