April 29, 2009

South Korean Scientists Clone ‘Red’ Dogs

With the implementation of cloning techniques, a team of scientists in South Korea have engineered four beagles that allegedly glow in reddish hues.  The same techniques, they propose, could aid in the development of cures for human diseases. 

Though they glow red in the presence of ultraviolet light, the dogs' nails and abdomens appear red even to the naked eye because of their thin skins. 

Lee Byeong-chun, a professor at Seoul National University and head of the research team, termed them the world's first transgenic dogs carrying fluorescent genes, an accomplishment that exceeds the uniqueness of actually glowing. 

In a statement to the Associated Press, Lee told reporters, "What's significant in this work is not the dogs expressing red colors but that we planted genes into them."

Lee's team published their achievement in a paper on the Web site of the journal "Genesis," which elaborated on how the dogs were identified as clones of cell donor through DNA assessments. 

Although scientists of other nations have successfully cloned fluorescent mice and pigs, this would be the first time dogs with modified genes have successfully been cloned, Lee informed. 

The process required that fluorescent genes be injected into skin cells of a beagle, which was then inserted into the beagle's eggs before finally implanting them into the uterus of a surrogate mother, a local mixed breed.  

In December 2007, six female beagles were born through a cloning with a gene that generates red fluorescent protein that causes them to glow, he said.  Four of the six survived.

Lee emphasizes that this research reveals proof that implanting genes with a particular trait could help treat certain diseases. 

Practice of implantation of human disease-related genes is already being tried in the course of dog cloning.  Lee believes these practices could potentially lead to a cure for genetic diseases such as Parkinson's.  He declined to discuss details extensively, as research was still under way. 

A South Korean scientist practiced a similar cloning technique in 2007 that resulted in glowing cats.  Based on his experience, he believes Lee's puppies are truly clones, saying he had seen them and had read about them in the journal. 

"We can appraise this is a step forward" toward finding cures for human diseases, said veterinary professor Kong Il-keun at South Korea's Gyeongsang National University. "What is important now is on what specific diseases (Lee's team) will focus on."

Lee's research faced much controversy, as he had been a key aide to the disproved scientist Hwang Woo-suk, whose breakthroughs on stem cell research were debunked because he was proven to have used false data.  But, independent tests would later prove the authenticity of the team's dog cloning. 


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