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Korean Team Clones US Grandma’s Dog

June 30th, 2008, 01:51 PM
Spending tens of thousands of dollars in producing clones of a dead dog does sound silly to some people. But if the dog was your best friend, partner and a lifesaver, then things may feel a little different.

Bernann McKinney, a California-based owner who has lived with a disability for years, will be excited to see the offspring of her late pitbull Booger. They are scheduled to be born in August in South Korea with the help of Seoul National University researchers.

The owner to-be of the world's first commercially cloned pet dogs feels grateful and gracious for what modern stem-cell technology can do for people like her. She says the dog saved her life by chasing off a ferocious Mastiff, which bit her severely, and helped her overcome the injuries and disability she suffered afterward.

``I had three fingers ripped off so I couldn't even put my clothes on. I couldn't walk for a long time. Booger picked up my shoes, trousers, socks and everything for me,'' McKinney told The Korea Times over the phone Monday, awaiting her trip to Seoul next month. ``He was my partner, my pal, my friend, you know. We had 10 years together and it was a magnificent time. I took him everywhere I went.''

McKinney said she lost the fingers on her right hand and had other severe cuts on the other hand and her legs in the dog attack. Via a series of surgeries, she had her hand reconstructed with bones and tissues from other parts of her body, and Booger was smart enough to help her get back to daily life.

The companion dog died in 2006. ``One night he had trouble breathing… in the last few seconds, he looked at me like `mom, I will see you again'.''

Since the death of Booger, McKinney contacted several animal clinics and cloning researchers in the U.S. only to have negative answers. Then she found on the Internet that there were some Korean researchers famous in the animal cloning field, and managed to reach them.

The cloning is conducted by Seoul National University team led by professor Lee Byeong-chun, while a private company RNL Bio is in charge of business operation. RNL said last week that it had three genetic clones of Booger conceived in two surrogate mother dogs, and they will be born in August, months ahead of its original schedule.

``I'm so excited now. We will have some kind of special birthday party for the Boogers,'' McKinney said. ``The greatest part of that was it was not only one Booger, but three Boogers. I'm going to name them Booger Ra, Booger Ha and Booger Lee,'' she said, referring to the names of the Korean researchers who promised to give her the dogs.

Since the Booger project was first reported by The Korea Times in February, there has been concerns from inside and outside Korea, that that the clones may show different characteristics and appearance even though their DNA is identical with the original.

Others raised the question as to whether the cloning of an animal is a luxury for rich people only. But McKinney strongly refutes this ― in February RNL said it was charging her $150,000. But the actual amount is smaller than that, a company employee said on Monday on condition of anonymity.

``I'm not a rich person at all. I was a teacher before my accident,'' she said, adding she even lost her home in Florida three years ago to hurricane Katrina.

To make up the money she is spending on the births of Booger juniors, she hopes her story can be made into a movie either in Hollywood or in Seoul, with a script written by herself. Another reason that she wants to do it herself is that the media often try to ridicule her story, she said.

``I don't like those Franken-dog stories. I want to tell the true story,'' she said. ``It is not the way the trash papers are saying. It's real. It's the greatness of research and science. I'm trying to keep it in that respect.''

The Seoul National University team was the first in the world to clone a dog in 2005. Since then, its members were split into two teams. One of them, led by disgraced stem-cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk, left the school and is now working together with an American company called BioArts for commercial dog cloning projects.

The others led by Lee Byeong-chun have remained at the university and are working together with RNL Bio on several projects including Booger and Marine, a cancer-sniffing dog from Japan.

RNL's CEO Ra Jeong-chan hope that the demand will explode when the market price is lowered to between $20,000 and $30,000.

``We can produce about 30 cloned dogs every year, and we plan to expand the capacity to around 200 soon. We see that it will become a 100-billion-won business someday,'' he said last month.

July 1st, 2008, 06:38 AM
..........and here they euthanize millions of dogs every year. :wall: What are they going to clone next ? Poop ? :mad:

July 1st, 2008, 09:46 AM
There's no guarantee the cloned dog will have the same personality as the original. What happens when their cloned dog isn't "exactly" the same as the dog they lost? Are we then going to be seeing cloned rescues?


July 1st, 2008, 09:57 AM
I miss my Chase every day. Would I clone her? Not even if I could afford it would I.

What made her my heart dog was her heart and soul. Somehow, I don't think that can be cloned.