Cat lovers can now CLONE their pet for £29,000 as a Chinese biotech firm successfully creates a male kitten
- British shorthair kitten was born inside the laboratories of Sinogene in Beijing
- This came 66 days after an embryo was implanted inside a surrogate mother
- The practice of cloning pets seems benign, beyond reducing genetic diversity
- But experts fear genetic tinkering could be a sign of things to come for people
Pet owners in China hoping to cheat death could soon have their wishes fulfilled as scientists in the country claim to have cloned a cat for the first time.
A kitten named Garlic was born inside the laboratories of Sinogene Biotechnology Company in Beijing, according to reports in state-owned media.
The British shorthair was born 66 days after an embryo was implanted inside a surrogate mother, Sinogene claimed during a press conference.
It means that, when a beloved pet dies, an exact copy can be created to replace it – and the firm hopes to one day pass on characteristics like personality and memories.
‘My cat died of urinary tract disease. I decided to clone him because he was so special and unforgettable,’ the cat’s owner Huang Yu told Chinese media.
While the practice of cloning pets seems benign, experts fear that such genetic tinkering could be a sign of things to come for people.
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Pet owners in China hoping to cheat death could soon have their wishes fulfilled as scientists in the country claim to have cloned a cat for the first time. Pictured: The cloned kitten (right) and it’s surrogate mother (left)
Garlic’s cloning means the company can now offer cat cloning services to the public in China.
It is expected to cost 250,000 yuan (£30,000 / $35,400). The company also offers a dog cloning service, costing 380,000 yuan (£44,000 / $54,000 ).
A number of cat owners have already come forward to request the service, the firm claims.
Garlic and the cat it came from appear identical but their personalities do differ, Sinogene’s chief scientist and a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lai Liangxue, told the Global Times.
He added that Garlic’s life expectancy should be the same as any other cat.
Sinogene say that hopes to use AI or a brain-computer interface technology – along the lines of Elon Musk’s proposed Neuralink – to store and transfer memories to cloned pets in the future.
A kitten named Garlic (pictured) was born inside the laboratories of Sinogene Biotechnology Company in Beijing, according to reports in state-owned media
Garlic (pictured) and the cat it came from appear identical but their personalities do differ, Sinogene’s chief scientist and a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lai Liangxue, claims
More than two-thirds of China’s 73 million pet owners care for a dog or a cat, CNBData from 2018 revealed.
To clone a cat or dog, an embryo is created using a nucleus of DNA from the animal being cloned and an empty ‘shell’ egg cell.
This is then placed into the surrogate cat mother’s uterus and the process from cell extraction to birth takes around two months to complete.
Sinogene says it is considering using its cloning technology to save endangered animals.
This would require controversial experimentation with interspecies cloning, which no scientists has ever successfully completed and which is viewed by the majority as unethical.
One team in China is attempting to save Pandas from extinction using the process, by injecting panda DNA into an empty cat egg cell.
Chen Dayuan, a professor of the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, noted at the conference that his
Cats were chosen as both species infants are of a similar size and share a gestation period of two to three months.
‘Because of the limited number of endangered species, such as giant pandas, scientist can’t directly conduct cloning experiments on them unless we can find a replacement,’ Dr Lai added.
WHAT IS CLONING AND COULD WE ONE DAY CLONE HUMANS?
What is cloning?
Cloning describes several different processes that can be used to produce genetically identical copies of a plant or animal.
In its most basic form, cloning works by taking an organism’s DNA and copying it to another place.
There are three different types of artificial cloning: Gene cloning, reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning.
Gene cloning creates copies of genes or parts of DNA. Reproductive cloning creates copies of whole animals.
Therapeutic cloning produces embryonic stem cells for tests aimed at creating tissues to replace injured or diseased tissues.
To create somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) clones, scientists take DNA (red circle) from tissue and insert it into egg cells (yellow) with their DNA (green) removed. The scientists then switch on or off certain genes to help the cells replicate (right)
Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996 using a reproductive cloning process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
This takes a somatic cell, such as a skin cell, and moves its DNA to an egg cell with its nucleus removed.
Another more recent method of cloning uses Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).
iPSCs are skin or blood cells that have been reprogrammed back into an embryonic-like state.
This allows scientists to design them into any type of cell needed.
Could we ever clone a human?
Currently there is no scientific evidence that human embryos can be cloned.
In 1998, South Korean scientists claimed to have successfully cloned a human embryo, but said the experiment was interrupted when the clone was just a group of four cells.
In 2002, Clonaid, part of a religious group that believes humans were created by extraterrestrials, held a news conference to announce the birth of what it claimed to be the first cloned human, a girl named Eve.
This was widely dismissed as a publicity stunt.
In 2004, a group led by Woo-Suk Hwang of Seoul National University in South Korea published a paper in the journal Science in which it claimed to have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube.
Gene cloning creates copies of genes or parts of DNA. Reproductive cloning creates copies of whole animals (stock image)
In 2006 that paper was retracted.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, from a technical perspective cloning humans is extremley difficult.
‘One reason is that two proteins essential to cell division, known as spindle proteins, are located very close to the chromosomes in primate eggs,’ it writes.
‘Consequently, removal of the egg’s nucleus to make room for the donor nucleus also removes the spindle proteins, interfering with cell division.’
The group explains that in other mammals, such as cats, rabbits and mice, the two spindle proteins are spread throughout the egg.