Company Offers Dog Cloning to Five Internet Bidders
BioArts International announced on Wednesday that it will clone dogs for the five highest bidders in online auctions.
The cloning process will be performed by Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist whose human cloning research involving embryonic stem cells was found to have been faked.
BioArts chief executive Lou Hawthorne formerly ran Genetic Savings & Clone, which offered to clone pet cats for $50,000 but folded in 2006 because few were willing to pay so much.
However, Hawthorne said that the prospects for storage of pet DNA for future possible clones showed him the market for dog clones was strong.
“The average dog owner has a different relationship with his dog than the average cat owner,” Hawthorne said.
“The level of intensity on the dog side just dwarfed what we saw on the cat side.”
Hwang Woo-suk led a team that recently created three clones of Hawthorne’s family dog, Missy, who died in 2002.
After tests performed at the University of California, Davis’ Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, researchers found that DNA samples taken from Missy and the three other dogs appeared to belong to the same individual.
Critics have been skeptical about Hawthorne’s choice to associate with Hwang for the project.
Hawthorne said he was wary of working with Hwang at first but said the Korean scientist had assembled the best technology and talent available. All of Hwang’s results connected to dog cloning have been independently verified, Hawthorne said.
Some groups claim the process of cloning household pets is an ethical slippery slope that may eventually lead to the cloning of humans.
“Many people consider pets to be part of our families,” Marcy Darnovsky, associate director of the Oakland-based Center for Genetics and Society, said in a statement. “If we get used to cute cloned puppies, will some people expect cute cloned babies next?”
BioArts insists that it has the sole license for cloning dogs, cats and endangered species using patented processes, which were first shown in the cloning of Dolly the sheep.
Groups critical of the dog-cloning effort also say the process is cruel, arguing that hundreds of failures are typical before one mammal is successfully cloned.
But BioArts found that dogs are much less likely to miscarry or give birth to malformed offspring during the cloning process than other animals, Hawthorne said.
“If everything isn’t perfect, it doesn’t work at all,” he said. “With other species, their reproductive systems are more tolerant of error.”
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