Boy oh boy, things seem to be speeding up in the field. On the news tonight:
*Some of the highlights:
South Korean Scientists Clone First Dog
By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA AP Science Writer
The Associated Press
Aug. 3, 2005 - South Korea's pioneering stem cell scientist has cloned a dog, smashing another biological barrier and reigniting a fierce ethical debate while producing a perky, lovable puppy.
The researchers, led by Hwang Woo-suk, insist they cloned an Afghan hound, a resplendent supermodel in a world of mutts, only to help investigate human disease, including the possibility of cloning stem cells for treatment purposes.
But others immediately renewed calls for a global ban on human reproductive cloning before the technology moves any farther.
"Successful cloning of an increasing number of species confirms the general impression that it would be possible to clone any mammalian species, including humans," said Ian Wilmut, a reproductive biologist at the University of Edinburgh who produced the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, from an adult cell nearly a decade ago.
Researchers have since cloned cats, goats, cows, mice, pigs, rabbits, horses, deer, mules and gaur, a large wild ox of Southeast Asia. So far, efforts to clone a monkey or another primate with the same techniques have failed.
Uncertainties about the health and life span of cloned animals persist; Dolly died prematurely in 2003 after developing cancer and arthritis.
In a news conference in Seoul, the cloning team also condemned the reproductive cloning of humans as "unsafe and inefficient." Human reproductive cloning already is banned in South Korea. Other nations, including the United States, are split over whether to ban just human cloning or cloning of all kinds, including the production of stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells are the source of all tissue. Researchers believe they can be coaxed to grow into heart, brain or nerve cells that could be used to renew ailing organs.
Last year, Hwang's team at Seoul National University created the world's first cloned human embryos. In May, they created the first embryonic stem cells that genetically match injured or sick patients.
Monkeys are the closest model to humans and they are crucial to medical research, but Hwang told reporters that cloning a monkey "is technically impossible at the moment."
The researchers nicknamed their canine creation Snuppy, for "Seoul National University puppy," a reference to Hwang's lab. One of the dog's co-creators, Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, described Snuppy, now 14 weeks old, as "a frisky, healthy, normal, rambunctious puppy."
On scientific terms, the experiment's success was mixed. Like Dolly, Snuppy was created using a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer.
Scientists took a skin cell from the ear of a 3-year-old male Afghan hound and extracted genetic material from the nucleus. They transferred it to an unfertilized egg whose nucleus was removed. The reconstructed egg holding the DNA from the donor cell was zapped with an electric current to stimulate cell division.
They implanted 1,095 cloned embryos into 123 dogs and just three pregnancies resulted. That's a cloning efficiency rate lower than experiments with cats and horses. One fetus miscarried and one puppy died of pneumonia 22 days after birth.
That left Snuppy. He was delivered by Caesarean section from his surrogate mother, a yellow Labrador retriever.
Associated Press writer Ji-Soo Kim contributed to this story from Seoul, South Korea.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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