Move Over Dolly, South Korean Company Clones First British Dog
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A South Korean company that charges about $100,000 US for animal cloning procedures has just cloned Britain’s first dog for free. The dog was copied from a 12-year-old pet dachshund named Winnie, owned by Rebecca Smith of London.
Smith won a contest sponsored by Sooam Biotech, the company behind the cloning. The company is already known for creating more than 500 cloned dogs for owners all around the world, but Smith’s dog is thought to be the first British dog to be cloned.
Smith, 29, said that when she heard about the competition she decided to enter by sending videos of her dog. “We sent in some videos and it just sort of snowballed from there,” she told the Mark Jefferies of the Mirror UK.
“We Brits do have a close attachment to our dogs, so it is exciting. My sausage dog is very special but she is 12 and not going to be around forever. My boyfriend always joked, ‘We need to get her cloned,’” she added.
Smith traveled to Seoul, South Korea and witnessed her dog, called “mini Winnie,” being born on March 30, weighing just over one pound.
A TV show is now set to air on Channel 4 in Britain this week, detailing the series of events leading up to the birth of mini Winnie the clone.
Smith told the program that she acquired the pup’s mother when she was just 18 years old and that the pet had helped her overcome her eating disorder bulimia.
“She is the best sausage dog in the world, she is desperate to be cloned. The world will be a better place with more Winnies in it. Everyone who meets her loves her,” Smith told the program.
To make the clone, the Sooam Biotech firm needed a tissue sample of Winnie, which was taken and stored in liquid nitrogen as it was transported to South Korea. Upon arrival, cells from the tissue sample were put into eggs from a donor dog of the same breed, creating a cloned embryo. The embryo was then implanted into a surrogate dog and mini Winnie was born later by caesarean section.
“It was really amazing to see the little Mini Winnie being born… it was a very special time,” Smith said in an interview with BBC Radio 5’s Victoria Derbyshire.
“I saw it being born and it looks exactly like Winnie. It is identical. Personality-wise I couldn’t tell you because it doesn’t see and it doesn’t hear yet – it is just a little sausage dog that wriggles around drinking milk,” said Smith. “They are going to keep me updated with videos and photos and we will try to visit again in the next few months.”
Sooam Biotech now hopes that many more people will come forward and get their beloved pets cloned after seeing what the company can do.
But Sir Ian Wilmut, one of the creators of infamous Dolly the Sheep clone in 1996, said he was skeptical of cloning dogs.
“Owners will be disappointed. So much of the personality of a dog comes from the way you treat them. If you spend [$100,000 US] on a cloned dog you will treat it differently. I am sufficiently skeptical,” said Wilmut, as cited by the Mirror UK.
Winnie was chosen to be cloned by a party of execs from Sooam Biotech who traveled to the UK to pick three dogs to be presented to the company.
Despite having a new replica of her 12-year-old Winnie, she won’t be able to bring mini Winnie home anytime soon.
“I have to wait six months because of our strict quarantine laws. It is heartbreaking. I am going to write to David Cameron to see if he can make an exception for ‘mini Winnie’. It was so hard leaving her behind, she is so sweet,” said Smith.
While many people may see pet cloning as a way of immortalizing their loved ones, some have other opinions on the matter.
Elaine Pendlebury, a senior veterinary surgeon with the charity PDSA, said in a statement that the charity believes cloning is not an appropriate way to deal with the loss of a pet.
“We understand that losing a beloved pet is extremely upsetting, and it is important for owners to come to terms with their bereavement over time. Pets are a huge part of family life, providing love and companionship, and the void that can be left can be hard to come to terms with,” she said, as cited by The Guardian.
“It is important to remember that manipulating identical DNA does not lead to an identical pet. A cloned pet may look the same but their personality will be different because personality develops through life experiences, including training and socialization,” Pendlebury added.