Human Genetic Diseases in Dogs?

Posted by Pete Shanks February 5, 2009
Biopolitical Times
Puppies cloned by RNL Bio

Buried in last week's sentimental (and horrifying) stories about the $150,000 cloned dog was something interesting: Dog cloning is not fundamentally about pets. This is not news in these quarters, but it's good to get confirmation from, so to speak, the horse's mouth.

Here's Lou Hawthorne, chairman of BioArts, which arranged for that clone: "I don't think the dog [cloning] market is that big ... it's a terrible time to be cloning dogs or cats." Instead, continues the article in the UK Daily Telegraph, "BioArts is now building laboratories in China and looking to diversify into human embryonic stem cell research, as well as disease-testing techniques for viruses such as avian flu." According to the BioArts website, the Chinese subsidiary NingRen Biologics will focus on DNA testing for forensics, and paternity and ancestry testing.

Nevertheless, BioArts asserts that its principal rival in the dog-cloning business, RNL Bio, is committing patent infringement. BioArts claims to have exclusive rights to use patents that derive from the Roslin team that cloned Dolly the Sheep for dog and cat cloning. RNL Bio's basic defense seems to be that they use a different process: They extract stem cells from fat tissue and use them as the basis for cloning. And why would they do that? Here's RNL Bio President Ra Jeong-chan:

"If human genes are fused inside with a dog's stem cells and the stem cells are again used to clone a dog, we can create a dog with human genetic disorders. This is more significant than cloning a dog using a somatic cell."

The head scientist at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which does the actual cloning work for BioArts, would likely agree. He's Hwang Woo-Suk.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: