Anyone who wants a “photocopied” pet will be disappointed: cloning dogs is not only unethical, there’s more…

Hangai Lilla

2022. August 24 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

We admit, that the idea of cloning can be attractive when your best friend leaves for the eternal hunting grounds after 15-20 years. The friend who faithfully watched your every step, comforted you when you were sad, and didn't leave your side when you were bedridden for days with a high fever.


And he was also there when you fell in love for the first time and we are sure that you can see his huge eyes looking longingly at you as you travel back to the dormitory on Sundays. How do you cope when that special someone is no longer part of your life? This huge market gap was discovered by a korean professor Woo Suk Hwang. Yes, unfortunately grief and pain have also fallen victim to business.

Snuppy in the arms of Professor Hwang

Snuppy, the first cloned dog

Snuppy, the Afghan Hound, was created in 2005 by Professor Hwang in South Korea using cells taken from the ear of another Afghan Hound and with the help of 123 surrogate mothers. During the experiment, 2 pups were born, of which only Snuppy survived. The young man finally became the father of 10 children in 2008. Then left the earth in 2015, at the age of 10.

Encouraged by this pea-size success, Professor Hwang started cloning human embryos. The highly prestigious British scientific journal, Nature, found out that the professor manipulated the results in several experiments and that the procurement of female eggs was not exactly ethical. Although his public opinion did not withstand this scandal but he received a two-year ban. The professor did not grieve for long. In 2008 he established the Sooam Laboratory, where he continues to manufacture dogs in an industrial manner to this day.

Not only the ethical objectionability, but even the price does not put people off

We simply cannot fathom how, after a scandal of such magnitude, it is still possible for someone to create the world’s largest cloning company by 2016.

As well as the fact that more than 1,000 dog have been cloned in Korea so far. For the price of which is around 100,000 dollars. Converted into HUF, this corresponds to around 38 million under today’s conditions. However, the pressure of the competition did not wait long here either. The American company Viagen, founded in 2015, is ready to clone man’s best friend for half that amount.

The Hungarian professor who led the Scottish research team that created the cloned sheep Dolly

In the days before cloning, it was known that once an animal had completed its individual development, the genetic material of the adult body cell could no longer be reprogrammed. Challenge accepted! The researchers discovered that if the nucleus containing the genetic material was removed from this cell and inserted into a denucleated egg, and then the process was initiated by some electrical or chemical impulse after it was inserted into a female, the genetic material would create a complete animal. In principle the sectioned copy of the one from which the sample was taken. Huh, we sweated a little on this. But perhaps this also shows how extremely complicated and sensitive is this process.

The Tudás.hu asked Dr. András Dinnyés, professor at the University of Szeged, the best-known cloning expert. “At that time, we cloned cattle from skin tissue or even muscle samples. This can even be done from a piece of meat from the store. Of course, you need to know that the genes in the mitochondria in the plasma of the egg cell, the energy-producing center of the cell, are also added to the genetic material of a mammal. And these in all cases are of female origin and, in the case of clones, come from the female dog of the egg donor.” – said Professor Dinnyés.

Translated into kitchen language, this actually means that the clone will not be a perfect copy of the original. Moreover, we will go further! Due to the different wombs, changes in gene function can also occur during individual development. But possible mutations in the DNA must also be taken into account. “So anyone who wants a “photocopied” favorite will be disappointed. The personality, the character of the animal cannot be copied.” – added Professor Dinnyés.

So is it actually a simple scam?

Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we have to do it. Especially when we are also aware that the cloned pet will not only be different from the original, but also involves a lot of additional losses. As we saw in Snuppy’s case, the creation of an individual requires the cooperation of many surrogate mothers. They devote their entire lives to servicing this process. Even with the extremely rapid development of science, half of these attempts fail.

However, what is most worrying for us in this whole story is that the companies treat the details as a professional secret. So we don’t know the exact details of the process, we don’t know where and how the oocytes are obtained. And we don’t even know what kind of treatment the “surrogate mothers” receive.

The only positive moment in the story is that, according to Professor Dinnyés, if cloning has not become more widespread up to now – during the 15-20 years of the industry’s existence – then it probably will not be. And we continue to try to ensure that anyone considering a similar decision is as aware of the steps and consequences of the process as possible.

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