Cloning man’s best friend

Clones are organisms that are exact genetic copies. Every single bit of their DNA is identical. Clones can happen naturally—identical twins are just one of many examples. Or they can be made in the lab. Below, find out how natural identical twins are similar to and different from clones made through modern cloning technologies. The first successfully cloned animal lived over a century before Dolly was created. The first animal to be cloned was a sea urchin in 1885. It had a two-fold scientific value; it was both a clone and a refutation of a then-current theory of cell biology.

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Snuppy, a portmanteau of “SNU” and “puppy”; April 24, 2005–May 2015) was an Afghan hound, credited with being the world’s first cloned dog. The puppy was created using a cell from an ear from an adult Afghan hound and involved 123 surrogate mothers, of which only three produced pups (Snuppy being the sole survivor). Department of theriogenology and biotechnology at Seoul National University for cloning Snuppy was led by Woo Suk Hwang. Snuppy has since been used in the first known successful breeding between cloned canines, after his sperm was used to artificially inseminate two cloned females, which resulted in the birth of 10 puppies in 2008.

Snuppy, (R) the first successfully cloned Afghan hound, sits with his genetic father at the Seoul National University on Aug. 3, 2005 in Seoul
Snuppy, (R) the first successfully cloned Afghan hound, sits with his genetic father at the Seoul National University on Aug. 3, 2005 in Seoul.

After Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996, scientists had managed to clone numerous other animals, including cats, cows, gaur, horses, mice, mules, pigs, rabbits and rats but had been unable to successfully clone a dog due to the problematic task of maturing a canine ovum in an artificial environment. After several failed attempts by other scientists, Woo Suk Hwang, a lead researcher at Seoul National University, was able to successfully create a clone using tissue from the ear of a 3-year-old Afghan hound. 123 surrogate mothers were used to carry the embryos, of which 1,095 were implanted, the procedure resulted in only three pregnancies; one resulted in a miscarriage, the other pup was born successfully but died of pneumonia three weeks after birth, the successful clone was carried by a Labrador Retriever. From the original 1,095 embryos to the final two puppies, this placed the success rate of the project at less than two tenths of a percent. Snuppy was named as a portmanteau of the initials of the Seoul National University (SNU) and the word “puppy”

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Woo Suk Hwang with Snuppy


How to Clone Your Dog

Step 1 – Collect a tissue sample from your dog. This can be performed by your vet while your dog is alive or up to five days after death, as long as your dog has been properly prepared and refrigerated.
Step 2 – Send the tissue sample to Sooam Biotech Research Foundation or ViaGen along with your payment of $100,000 ($50,000 if using ViaGen).
Step 3 – Collect your cloned puppy when it’s ready to come home.

The cost of cloning pretty much takes the decision out of our hands. That’s a lot of money! But before I get into that, here’s a brief explanation of what happens during the cloning process.

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The Cloning Process

A cell from your dog’s tissue sample is altered by removing the nucleus which contains your dog’s DNA or genetic information. Meanwhile, an egg is harvested from a donor female at the cloning facility. Next, the nucleus from the donor female’s cell is removed from the egg and replaced with your dog’s nucleus. The egg is then given an electrical shock to stimulate cell division. After a few days, an embryo has developed and the egg is implanted into a surrogate female dog where it’s carried to full term and delivered.

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In 2010, when Snuppy was five years old, the researchers collected stem cells from him. They also collected egg cells from female dogs, whose nuclei were removed. Using a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the nuclei from Snuppy’s donor cells were transferred into the eggs, and 94 embryos were created. These embryos were then implanted into surrogate mothers, which gave birth to four “reclones.” The researchers were already off to a good start. Four live births from 94 embryos, a success rate of 4.3%, is far higher than the success rate achieved when Snuppy was born (0.2%). Sadly, just a few days after birth, one of the four reclones died from diarrhea.

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Snuppy’s clones

This, however, is not out of the ordinary, given that up to one quarter of litters experience the loss of a puppy. The three remaining clones, which were nine months old when the authors wrote the paper, are alive and well. They will be monitored (hopefully) for years to come in order to provide more data on the health of clones and their reclones. Stay tuned for a follow-up in 2027!

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