Origins of ‘Cloned’ Dog Now in Question
SEOUL, South Korea — While South Korea’s most famous scientist was resigning Friday in disgrace after his university said he faked stem cell research, one of his greatest purported breakthroughs was romping in the snow.
Snuppy, an Afghan hound that researcher Hwang Woo-suk said he cloned, was shown in photographs by South Korean media being led by a handler on a leash through the grounds of Seoul National University’s animal hospital, where the dog is now kept.
“Lonely Snuppy after professor Hwang leaves,” Yonhap news agency wrote in one photo caption.
Hwang unveiled Snuppy – named for Seoul National University puppy – in August, claiming to have created the world’s first cloned dog. But like his other breakthroughs in stem-cell science, that assertion is now being questioned.
A university panel that had been investigating a May paper in the journal Science on Hwang’s stem-cell research said Friday that he had fabricated those results and it was now investigating the claims of the cloned dog as well.
Blood samples related to Snuppy have been sent for DNA testing, the panel said Friday.
Although other animals have been cloned successfully before, applying the technique to a dog had been seen as significant because of the difficulties in working with canine eggs.
Hwang had said his workers used DNA of skin cells taken from the ear of a 3-year-old male Afghan hound to replace the nucleus of unfertilized eggs. Nearly 1,100 embryos were created and transferred to 123 surrogates, but only three pregnancies resulted, Hwang claimed in a paper published in the journal Nature.
Of those, there was one miscarried fetus and two puppies delivered by Caesarean section after 60 days. One died of pneumonia 22 days after birth – leaving Snuppy as the sole survivor.
Hwang posed smiling with the dog in his arms when announcing his alleged achievement in August. The dog garnered worldwide fame, with U.S.-based Time magazine later naming it the “most amazing invention” of 2005.
American scientist Gerald Schatten, who collaborated on the project, at the time called Snuppy “a frisky, healthy, normal, rambunctious puppy.”
Now some are wondering if Snuppy, now eight months old, was just that.
The journal Nature said this week it is reviewing the paper in light of questions raised about Hwang’s other research.
A top international stem-cell researcher also questioned Friday if the dog had really been cloned.
“I think a lot of the community were very impressed with the cloning of a dog – and it was a delightful dog – but I actually don’t think it is a cloned dog now,” said Professor Alan Trounson of Australia’s Monash University.