Thursday, August 04, 2005

Is a Cloned Afghan the Beginning of End for Shows?



It's the first cloned dog -- an Afghan of all things. The process is very, very expensive and inefficient, but so was invitro fertilization 20 years ago; now it's how most of the top horse and cattle are being bred.

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Snuppy, the First Cloned Puppy
S. Korean scientists say creation will help in human disease research

By Joseph B. Verrengia, Associated Press, August 5, 2005

He could be just another frisky, long-haired puppy with a slightly dazed expression. But his genetic fingerprint says otherwise.

Meet Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog. Scientists duplicated this Afghan hound, born 14 weeks ago, using a skin cell plucked from another hound. The two dogs are three years apart but genetically identical, right down to their weird, tan eyebrows.

Snuppy was created by South Korea's pioneering stem cell scientist, smashing another biological barrier and reigniting a fierce ethical debate.

The researchers, led by Hwang Woo-suk, insist they cloned the Afghan hound, a resplendent supermodel in a world of mutts, only to help investigate human disease, including the possibility of cloning stem cells for treatment purposes.

The dog's appearance in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature stirred renewed calls for a global ban on the cloning of humans to produce babies.

"Successful cloning of an increasing number of species confirms the general impression that it would be possible to clone any mammalian species, including humans," said Ian Wilmut, a reproductive biologist at the University of Edinburgh who produced the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, from an adult cell nearly a decade ago.

Researchers have since cloned cats, goats, cows, mice, pigs, rabbits, horses, deer, mules and gaur, a large wild ox of Southeast Asia. So far, efforts to clone a monkey or another primate with the same techniques have failed.

Uncertainties about the health and life span of cloned animals persist; Dolly died prematurely in 2003 after developing cancer and arthritis.

Wilmut and others complimented Hwang's achievement. But they said politicians and scientists must face the larger and more delicate issue — how to extend research without crossing the moral boundary of duplicating human life in the lab.

"The ability to use the underlying technology in developing research models and eventually therapies is incredibly promising," said Robert Schenken, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. "However, the paper also points out that in dogs as in most species, cloning for reproductive purposes is unsafe."

The cloned puppy was the lone success from more than 100 dogs implanted with more than 1,000 cloned embryos.

In a news conference in Seoul, the cloning team also condemned the reproductive cloning of humans as "unsafe and inefficient." Human reproductive cloning already is banned in South Korea. Other nations, including the United States, are split over whether to ban just human cloning or cloning of all kinds, including the production of stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells are the source of all tissue. Researchers believe they can be coaxed to grow into heart, brain or nerve cells that could be used to renew ailing organs.

Last year, Hwang's team at Seoul National University created the world's first cloned human embryos. In May, they created the first embryonic stem cells that genetically match injured or sick patients.

The researchers insisted the dog experiment was aimed at creating a reliable research model.
Monkeys are the closest model to humans, and they are crucial to medical research, but Hwang told reporters that cloning a monkey "is technically impossible at the moment."

"Dogs share physiological characteristics with humans," he said. "A lot of diseases that occur in dogs can be directly transferred to humans."

Animal welfare groups criticized the experiment. "This technology could lead to a brave new world of puppy production if it were hijacked by profiteers seeking to use cloning to supply the pet trade," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

The researchers nicknamed their canine creation Snuppy, for "Seoul National University puppy," a reference to Hwang's lab. One of the dog's co-creators, Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, described Snuppy, now 14 weeks old, as "a frisky, healthy, normal, rambunctious puppy."

On scientific terms, the experiment's success was mixed. Like Dolly, Snuppy was created using a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Scientists took a skin cell from the ear of a 3-year-old male Afghan hound and extracted genetic material from the nucleus. They transferred it to an unfertilized egg whose nucleus was removed. The reconstructed egg holding the DNA from the donor cell was zapped with an electric current to stimulate cell division.

Dog eggs have been problematic because they are released from the ovary at an earlier, less mature stage than in other mammals. This time, the researchers collected more mature eggs from the donors' fallopian tubes.

They implanted 1,095 cloned embryos into 123 dogs and just three pregnancies resulted. That's a cloning efficiency rate lower than experiments with cats and horses. One fetus miscarried and one puppy died of pneumonia 22 days after birth.

That left Snuppy. He was delivered by Caesarean section from his surrogate mother, a yellow Labrador retriever.

1 comment:

clandauer said...

Good article both times I've read it. Now that comments are turned on, the only thing I have to add is that you've laid the groundwork for the "end of dog shows" comment, but haven't gotten to the good part yet.

I'd love to read what your wit comes up with on that angle. But I essentially believe in the supposition.

The show people have a cancerous mentality when it comes to their breeds. They can't stop building, they never progress into a maintenance phase. They feel that the breeds must be continually "improved" and that usually means massive amounts of inbreeding and whittling away at the biodiversity in the gene pool.

And "improved" from what I can see, means trying to get a very popular sire to breed with your bitch (since you can get four or five puppy prospects for the same price of buying one of the puppies from the dog's owner) and then inbreeding the piss out of the result dogs so you can try and capture the popular brand of the successful kennel.

And what determines success and popularity? 80 year old women wearing slightly moth eaten plaid suits with white leggings and "sensible shoes." Really, the LAST people on earth whom I'd trust to make informed decisions on health and genetics, let alone fashion and taste.

But that's how it works. Some rich person (like Cosby or a Firestone heiress) buys into the world, the sycophants peer pressure each other into snowballing a few dogs each year that win show after show against any natural odds, and then rest of the breeders think that it all had to do with what was in the dog and in the ring, when it's all about the people and out of the ring politic... so they chase the dog's genes and the kennel name.

Well, cloning would give these people exactly what they want. They inbreed to "set type" meaning making a homozygous dog even MORE homozygous. And why would one do that? Because you can't clone, of course! If an animal were 100% homozygous, it would always pass along the exact same genetic information. If a male and a female were both 100% homozygous then all of their offspring would be genetically identical.

Even if the purebred horse world has already banned clones, what's to stop anyone from doing so anyway? Even if the kennel club banned clones, there is little to nothing that they could practically do to prevent clones being shown in conformation and especially all of the out of the ring applications like having cloned stud and dam dogs producing more litters per year than could be done naturally with just one dog.

It's rather hilarious and hypocritical for the most notorious inbreeder (horses and dogs) communities to make a stand against cloning, since it's the perfection of their practices, whose imperfections are horribly harmful.

Deep in their hearts, what they really want are clones. And if we can satisfy the small % of the "fancy" with some clones so they can leave the rest of the breed healthy and diverse, I'm all for it. Let them have their clones and show them too.