SCIENCE

Couple Spends $100,000 To Clone Deceased Dog, Gets Two Puppies

Who said only cats could have nine lives?

Losing a dog is heart-wrenchingly sad.

But what if you could bring them back after they die? If you could reincarnate your dog in a way, would you do it?

Laura Jacques and her partner Richard Remde did just that and celebrated the birth of their first cloned puppy on Boxing Day, according to the Guardian.

Jacques, 29, and Remde, 43, from Skipton, England, lost their beloved dog, Dylan, earlier this year. The 8-year-old boxer died of a heart attack after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. 

“When it happened I was in total shock, I couldn’t feel my limbs. I had pins and needles everywhere. I didn’t know how I would be able to cope, I thought I would have to throw myself off a bridge or something,” Jacques said.

Crushed by the loss, Jacques came up with the idea of cloning Dylan after she recalled a documentary she'd seen about a competition to have a dog cloned. Together, Jacques and Remde found a South Korean company, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which for a cool $100,000 offers the controversial commercial dog-cloning service.

Sooam self-identifies as the "leading laboratory in the world for dog cloning," and utilizes a technique that involves implanting DNA into a "blank" dog egg from which scientists have removed the nucleus, which holds the genetic material and gives the animal its personality and characteristics. After the new DNA has been placed into the egg and given electric shocks to trigger cell division, the egg is then implanted into a surrogate, according to The Telegraph.

This diagram from Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explains the process:

The company claims to have produced more than 700 dogs for commercial customers, but what makes Jacques and Remde's case so unique is the amount of time post-mortem the cells were taken. Samples were taken from the deceased boxer 12 days after he died.

The couple's first sample was taken a few days after Dylan died and was delivered to the South Korean firm in person by Remde. Sadly, the procedure failed, so the couple scrambled to quickly provide a second sample. Despite the second sample being received well past the time window that Sooam usually accepts, the firm pushed forward and produced not one but two puppy embryos.

“This is the first case we have had where cells have been taken from a dead dog after a very long time. Hopefully it will allow us to extend the time after death that we can take cells for cloning,” said David Kim, a scientist at Sooam.

The first cloned puppy was named Chance, after the character in the Disney classic, "Homeward Bound." The second puppy, Shadow, was born Sunday.

Unsurprisingly, Chance looks exactly like Dylan.

"Once he started making noises I knew it was real. Even as a puppy of just a few minutes old I can’t believe how much he looks like Dylan. All the colourings and patterns on his body are in exactly the same places as Dylan had them,” Jacques said.

Jacques and Remde are fully aware of how controversial a procedure cloning is. Despite puppies having been cloned before, there has been much backlash regarding the ethics of the process.

“It is a controversial topic and there will be people who don’t agree with it but there will be loads of people that would love to be able to do it,” Jacques said.

Jacques discussed the topic Monday morning on BBC Breakfast, which asked her about RSPCA statements saying animals are harmed by the procedure. According to the show, the RSPCA has said cloned animals "frequently suffer physical ailments such as tumors, pneumonia, and abnormal growth patterns."

Jacques said she "doesn't believe there's been any pain or distress caused" to the dogs and found them to be content.

There will likely be more cloned pets popping up in the future now that the procedure is becoming mainstream. But until we meet other furry cloned friends, we send our best wishes to Chance and Shadow -- may they have long and healthy lives.

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