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Pet cloning is the cloning of a pet animal. The first commercially cloned pet was a cat named Little Nicky, produced in 2004 by Genetic Savings & Clone for a north Texas woman for the fee of US$50,000. On May 21, 2008 BioArts International announced a limited commercial dog cloning service through a program it called Best Friends Again. This program came on the announcement of the successful cloning of a family dog Missy, which was widely publicized in the Missyplicity Project. In September 2009 BioArts announced the end of its dog cloning service. In July 2008, the Seoul National University created five clones of a dog named Booger for its Californian owner. The woman paid $50,000 for this service.
Science fiction depictions of cloning often create the impression that clones emerge full-grown from machines, are indistinguishable from their predecessors, and have even had their predecessors' minds "downloaded" into them. However, while an animal clone has the same genes as its genetic donor, behavior is influenced by environment and experience as well as by genetics. Additionally genetics themselves change as animals age; for example the number of new mutations from generation to generation in humans is approximately 100.
Another feature differentiating a clone from the original is altered epigenetics: primarily alterations to DNA and histones that result in changes in gene expression, which importantly can result in changes in appearance and behavior. Since epigenetics is different in different tissues, and changes over the course of an animals life the original pattern of gene expression that produced a particular animal is distorted in its clone, particularly if the tissue used for cloning was taken when the animal was older. Finally, currently most cloning techniques poorly preserve epigenetic modifications (though there are some that are better--for example altering epigenetics is a primary mode by which dedifferentiation techniques dedifferentiate cells, so expect a somewhat different phenotype with these). The bottom line being that while a cloned animal may be more similar to the original than its sibling, it will not be as similar as an identical twin (whose epigenetics are very similar); and there may be ways of mitigating these differences to some extent.
Some critics[who?] accuse pet cloning proponents of encouraging prospective pet cloning clients to falsely expect that their new pets will be indistinguishable from their old pets.
Defenders of pet cloning argue that pet cloning does not contribute to pet homelessness, the animals involved are treated humanely, it makes people happy, there is a demand for it, it will contribute to scientific, veterinary, and medical knowledge, and it will help efforts to preserve endangered cousins of the cat and dog. They also claim that cloning is no more inhumane than breeding.
In 2005, California Assembly Member Lloyd Levine introduced a bill to ban the sale or transfer of pet clones in California. However, it was voted down.
In popular culture
- The fictional company Repet clones pets in the movie The 6th Day (2000)
- Joyce McKinney had her pet dog Booger cloned, as shown in the 2010 documentary Tabloid
- BioArts International
- Epigenetics Identical Twins. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/twins/. Missing or empty