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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 in partnership with a Korean company Sooam Biotech. 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.
Sooam Biotech continued developing proprietary techniques for cloning dogs based on a licence from ViaGen's subsidiary Start Licensing (which owns the original patent for cloning Dolly the sheep). Sooam created cloned puppies for owners whose dogs had died, charging $100,000 a time Sooam Biotech was reported to have cloned 700 dogs by 2015 and to be producing 500 cloned embryos of various species a day in 2016. In 2015 the longest period after which Sooam Biotech could clone a puppy was 12 days from the death of the original pet dog.
Another feature of cloning 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.
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- BioArts International
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