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Lancelot Encore Puppies Put Pet Cloning In Spotlight

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Independence, a male pup, is one of the yellow Labrador retriever puppies fathered by Lancelot Encore, a cloned dog.
Independence, a male pup, is one of the yellow Labrador retriever puppies fathered by Lancelot Encore, a cloned dog.

"Future pups from the past." That's what Edgar and Nina Otto, the proud owners of a cloned Labrador retriever, Lancelot Encore, have dubbed his offspring. Lancelot Encore is the clone of Sir Lancelot, the West Boca, Fla. couple's family dog that died four years ago.

Now the Ottos have not only a Sir Lancelot replica, but also eight puppies. The little ones were born July 4, after Lancelot Encore was bred with a female Lab named Scarlett, the Sun Sentinel reported.

Not long ago, pet cloning was science fiction. That's no longer the case--though there are at least a couple of reasons why it's not done very often.

"It is very expensive, so most people cannot afford cloning their cats or dogs," cloning expert Dr. Konrad Hochedlinger, professor of regenerative biology at Harvard Medical School, told The Huffington Post in an email. "Besides, most people probably don't want to."

He said the risk with cloning is that the animal produced might not survive birth or could develop abnormalities later in life, such as obesity or sometimes cancer.

While pet cloning remains controversial, Hochedlinger told The Huffington Post that it's more common to clone farm animals--such as cows and pigs--with desired traits. As animal cloning slowly goes mainstream, some scientists speculate this could open the door to human cloning.

Is human cloning really possible?

"In principle, cloning should also work in humans," Dr. Hochedlinger said. "However, attempts to generate cloned blastocysts (a very early stage of human development before implantation) has so far been challenging. So, human cloning faces, as of yet, unidentified barriers compared with animal cloning."

In simple terms, cloning involves taking DNA from the cell of an adult and inserting it into an egg cell harvested from a female. The resulting embryo is implanted in either the female or a surrogate to give birth.

With pet cloning, the aim is for the embryo to become a genetic copy of the previous pet. But a genetic copy isn't the same thing as the original.

"You're not really getting your dog come back to life," John Woestendiek, journalist and author of "Dog, Inc.," told ABC News. "You're getting a genetic duplicate or twin, and we know how different twins can be. I mean, what's special about your dog, that's the part that can't be cloned. In effect, the person who is getting a dog clone is paying $100,000 to get a blank canvas."

But for the Ottos (who were featured on TLC's "I Cloned My Pet"): "Lancey Encore the clone has the same behavior, the same movements and has all of the same traits of his predecessor," they wrote on their website. "That part we did not expect. Lancelot, our prince charming, had finally come home."

What do you think about pet cloning? Tell us in the comments below.

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