Mini-Winnie, a cloned Dachshund, became the first cloned dog in Britain this past week. With her birth, she has ended up raising more than a few ethical issues.
While not the first cloned dog on Earth, Mini-Winnie has become a lightning rod of sorts, being both a testament to the massive strides taken in veterinary science, and the lengths some pet parents will go to in an attempt to prolong their time with a beloved pet.
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Mini-Winnie was developed after Rebecca Smith, a west London caterer, won a competition run by Seoul based bio-engineering firm, Sooam Biotech. Though Mini-Winnie was a gift, the competition was set up to advertise this lab’s ability to clone dogs, a service they are now selling for £60,000 a pop (or $100,410).
The process used by Sooam Biotech seems fairly straight forward: they took a skin sample from Smith’s pet, where the DNA was extracted and injected into a donor egg. The egg was then implanted on a surrogate mother, and the rest was just nature taking its course.
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What concerns pet parents and scientists alike is the fact that people with the means are going to end up spending an exorbitant amount of money for a service that:
- Will not give you back the dog you lost, but rather a genetically identical puppy, which will likely have an entirely unique personality.
- Prevents would be pet rescuers from adopting a pet in need, opting instead to have a lab effectively build one for them.
And that is not including the moral implications. For many people, the practice of cloning seems to stray into a realm of knowledge not intended for our understanding. Regardless of where you stand on the morality of the issue, the idea behind cloning your dog, insofar as it reproduces the original dog's every detail, is simply misleading.
“It is extremely unlikely that a puppy cloned from a favourite pet will grow up to behave the same way,” said Robin Lovell-Badge, a geneticist at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. “You would have about as much chance of replicating [them] by choosing one from [a shelter] as you would from cloning it.”
Though this advancement could potentially yield to a number of new treatments for previously life-threatening conditions (i.e., replicating organs for transplant surgery), the idea most people are grappling with is that certain people are going to go the more expensive ‘tailor-made’ route when looking for a new companion, rather than opting for one of the millions in shelters looking for a home.
All that said, what do you think? Where do you stand on the practice of cloning pets? Let us know in the comments section!
Source: The Guardian - http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/apr/09/britains-first-cloned-dog-born