If you thought NASA taking monkeys to space was crazy, here’s even more crazy news. Cloning pets is officially a thing! Yes. As of 2021, the cloning of pets marks 17 years since the first pet – a cat named Little Nicky – was cloned. This happened way back in 2004, even before cat videos and YouTube were a thing. The practice has quickly grown over the years. Science never ceases to amaze us, but when humans start playing God, it begs the question: how far is too much far? While most of us adore our pets and want them to live forever, is cloning them ethically? This guide covers the cloning process, pet cloning costs, and what bioethicists’ and scientists think.
What is Pet Cloning?
In layman’s terms, the word clone means to replicate. In biological terms, it means to generate an identical copy of a cell or organism. This can happen naturally when a cell replicates itself sexually with no artificial interference or happens in a lab. According to a review at mydogisarobot.com/, cloning a pet produces the genetic twin of the pet. The cloned pet shares the same characteristics as the actual pet. This also includes intelligence, pet behavior, and appearance. When it comes to pet cloning, and especially dogs, there are therapeutic and reproductive solutions. In the latter, a clone is made from somatic cell nuclear transfer. However, therapeutic cloning is more complex. Scientists take a nucleus carrying the same genetic material, which is then transferred into an unfertilized egg where the nucleus has been removed.
What Happens When a Pet is Cloned?
To clone a pet, scientists and bioethicists conceive life in the lab. This is tedious work and requires experts to handle. Generally, scientists use the eggs harvested from donor animals. Next, they remove the nucleus – separate yolk from egg white – and insert cells from the original pet. Based on a review posted by Smithsonian Magazine, Jacob Brogan explains that the egg contains the complete genetic material from the pet. Jacob says that the egg doesn’t need to be fertilized by the sperm. However, there’s a need to start cell division. To achieve this, scientists run an electric current through the egg, which turns it into an embryo. Finally, the embryo is surgically inserted into a surrogate mother’s pet. If the mother’s pet’s body accepts the embryo, pregnancy follows. This is a 50/50 chance as most mother pets may reject the embryo.
Similarity and Health
As mentioned above, cloned pets share similar genes as their donor. However, there exist different variations in how these genes are expressed. Sometimes, characteristics such as fur pattern, eye color, or markings can differ. The cloning of animals, whether pets or domestic animals, are closely monitored by government authorities such as the FDA. FDA reports that cloned pets are generally healthy. However, pets like dogs exhibit different results. Biologically, dogs have more complex reproductive systems, which makes them more challenging to clone. The first successful dog clone happened in 2005. At first, most scientists argued that clones would age faster than their natural-born counterparts. But generally, clones are as healthy as their natural counterparts.
Everything Can Go Wrong
Cloning a pet requires several scientific and biological attempts. “Sometimes, the cloning process fails to work 75 percent of the time”, explains Robin Downing, MS, DVM, a correspondent for Top Vets Talk Pets and director of Windsor Veterinary Clinic. In some cases, implanted embryos are incompatible with surrogates, and miscarriages can happen. “In more awe-shocking scenarios, the pets can be born with birth defects,” adds Downing. This means several pets of the same breed need to be available to donate eggs.
Similarly, they also need to act as surrogates. Downing explains that this isn’t a pain-free process for the test subjects. “The donors are subjected through hormonal treatments and surgical procedures to harvest eggs. This also takes a toll on most animals,” adds Downing.
Ever since pet cloning became commercial a few years ago, it has grown in popularity. But while pet owners are spending hundreds of dollars to clone their favorite four-legged friends, animal rights activists claim the practice is unethical. According to Jessica Pierce, a bioethicist, writer, and philosopher, “cloning of pets involve surgical manipulation of hormone levels and other procedures.” Pierce’s claims have also been backed up by animal advocacy organizations such as PETA and Humane Society of the United States.
Losing your four-legged animal to old age or disease is challenging. But cloning isn’t the best solution. While the downsides are downright harmful, cloning also robs you of the opportunity of knowing a new pet. A new pet in your life can bring in more happiness and joy and re-ignite the spark you had with your former pet. With technology growing fast, only time will dictate whether pet cloning will survive another decade.