A biotech company in China has successfully cloned a dog via gene editing.
Beijing-based SinoGene announced last week that it created an adorable beagle puppy named Longlong in a lab, making China the world’s first country to clone a dog using the new technique.
Born on May 26th via a surrogate mother, Longlong is genetically identical to its DNA father: a 2-year-old dog named Apple, according to Shanghaiist.
Apple, who was also born in a laboratory using somatic cell transfer technique, is being used to aid scientists in researching human diseases.
Cloning dogs is especially difficult for scientists as the specimen has a poor oocyte quality. The asynchronous reproduction cycles of surrogate mother dogs makes it even more challenging to have a successful cloning procedure.
Like most clones produced elsewhere around the world, Longlong is reportedly created for testing medical treatments that, in the future, will benefit humans.
Apple, for instance, was genetically engineered to develop a blood clotting disease called atherosclerosis, a condition that should also be in Longlong.
While China’s state-run media have been heaping praises on the recent scientific achievements, critics have voiced out their concerns over the supposed unethical implications of cloning.
“Cloning is unethical. Like any other laboratory animal, these animals are caged and manipulated in order to provide a lucrative bottom line,” said China press officer Guo Longpeng of PETA’s Asia division
Meanwhile, Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health researcher and lead scientist at Sinogene, Lai Liangxue, pointed out the importance of animal cloning, especially in its role in human disease prevention research.
Lai and his team of scientists have reportedly developed a disease model using the latest gene-editing technology, CRISPR/Cas9, to achieve mass production, which will be the first of its kind in the world.
The company further stated that it plans to promote commercial dog cloning services internationally by first establishing a gene-editing development and research base.
China Agriculture University professor Shi Zhensheng agrees and sees similar benefits in cloning dogs.
“The gene-edited dogs have great advantages in helping scientists to research human medicine and genetic diseases, also promoting the study on veterinary medicine,” he was quoted as saying.
After Longlong, the lab has created two other puppies using Apple’s DNA, with plans of cloning more in the near future.
Sinogene’s deputy general manager, Zhao Jianping, added that they are also looking beyond medical research. He mentioned the possibility of cloning pets and even police dogs.
“In China, there is a significant shortage of working dogs, which include police dogs, sniffer dogs and guide dogs. They are difficult to breed and most of them are purchased from overseas,” Zhao told the Global Times (via ECNS).
“The Nanchang police dog training base has expressed interest in our technology and is now discussing the possibilities of cooperation with us,” he added.
“The technology will also benefit pet owners who have formed a strong bond with their dogs. It will be too painful for them to see their dogs pass away. A cloned dog would be able to help with that,” said Zhao.
He said that there have been several pet owners who have sought their help, in hopes of bringing their family dogs back to life. A similar service in South Korea reportedly costs up to $100,000.
Should the company be successful in developing its system of mass production, Zhao is confident, their pricing will be much lower soon.
“Our price will be half of that,” he said. “We hope to popularize [such cloning] for the public.”