Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, RNL Life Science Inc., Germantown, MD, USA
People may be shocked or fascinated at the dog cloning news. The United States is one of the most pet friendly counties in the world and Americans are various in responding to it. Lots of issues have been raised since Dolly the Sheep.
Animal cloning was reported first as success in Dolly the Sheep case. Dolly (5 July 1996–14 February 2003) was a female domestic sheep, and the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer. She was cloned by Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and colleagues at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh in Scotland. She was born on 5 July 1996 and she lived until the age of six. After this first success of mammal cloning, many other mammal species joined cloned list. The first dog cloning was announced in Aug 2005 in Seoul, Korea. Dr. BC Lee and his team successfully cloned an Afghan Hound named Snuppy.
Controversies and debates have grown over dog cloning issues but we need to consider the benefits related dog cloning instead of emotional responses.
Animal activists ban experiments on animals. Founded in 1929, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) is an educational organization whose ultimate goal is the elimination of animal use in product testing, education and biomedical research. For more than 70 years, we have sought to identify the cruelty and waste of vivisection and to convince the general public to work actively for its ultimate abolition. We strive to educate researchers, physicians, manufacturers, teachers and government leaders in the discovery of new, humane methods that will save millions of animals each year and still give our children a safer, healthier and happier future.
The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966. It is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. Other laws, policies, and guidelines may include additional species coverage or specifications for animal care and use, but all refer to the Animal Welfare Act as the minimum acceptable standard. The Act is enforced by the USDA, APHIS, and Animal Care agency.
Dog cloning procedure itself is not that invasive and very close to that of an in vitro fertilization.
Critics also argue that cloning attempts have high rates of failure, which animals involved in cloning research are likely to suffer, that clones may have serious health problems in later life. Humane Society says animal clones are defective and short-living, based on Dolly the Sheep case. She lived in a confined laboratory area leaving controversy whether or not it was healthy environment for her. The first dog clone Snuppy is now 6 years old and has no health concerns. Failure in dog cloning in Dr. Lee's laboratory means non-development in womb rather than mis-shaping. A competitor tried to defame Dr. Lee's dog cloning team by saying that Koreans would do dog cloning for better dog meat or slay surrogate mother dogs without any factual basis. Lots of misconceptions have been commonly accepted by interested group opposing dog cloning. There should be more research and public efforts to solve this problem.
Some people react religiously and object to dog cloning because they believe it fools God. Actually dog cloning procedure is not the same as that described in the Chapter of Genesis. Dog cloning doesn't create life but transfer a life from one form to another.
Many Americans may blame dog cloners for they think cloners should adopt dogs from shelters rather than cloning their own dogs. They even would impute overpopulation of shelter animals to dog cloners saying why would you clone a dog over so many abandoned pets out there? Practically dog cloning contributes neither the existing dog's overpopulation nor rapid growing in the future. The over population is more from irresponsibility of ex-owners not from dog cloner's selfishness.
Fear for the Future Human Cloning
Whenever animal cloning news comes out, people may get afraid the human cloning is near. As dog cloning is very difficult to achieve, the successful dog cloning news may have public more worried. The reproductive physiology and anatomy of dogs are much different from that of humans, dog cloning may not help human cloning or human cloning may be easier than that. Even if human cloning is possible, common social context doesn't allow its practice in many countries.
Dog Cloning Benefit and Industrial Needs
When any pet owner loves a dog as he/her child and wants a genetic copy of it, dog cloning is the perfect way for that need. A genetic copy except the mitochondrial composition, would respond very similarly as the original if it was exposed to the similar environment. Companion animal cloning offers alternative ways for the restoration of reproductive capability to dogs that have been neutered/spayed or become sterile due to diseases. Another consideration of cloning benefit is about the special relationship between men and men's best friends. Dogs' life span is 15 years at best but human's is around 80. To continue a once in a life time friendship during the whole life, cloning might help. Of course cloning can't copy soul or memories but to watch multi-generation of the same genetic copy can be more exciting and special experience in life, which can satisfy pet owner's emotional desire to have relationship as long as possible. Endangered animal can be also preserved by cloning.
Sacrifice and Compensation
Studies using animals have brought incredible advances and achievements in medical and pharmaceutical history. Now trends are invasive procedures are minimized and cell based research replace live animals for toxicology test. Minimal experiments for medical research using animals are indispensible for more future benefits both human and animals themselves. Most of pharmaceuticals developed for human now save the lives of animals like dogs, cats and horses. Even cutting edge stem cell technology has been used to treat animals.
As technology advances, the genome sequences of many organisms have been revealed: human in 2001 and dog in 2005.
The large number of reported diseases is due to the founder effect and inbreeding practices in pure-bred dogs that uncover recessive disease alleles. Through aggressive breeding programs man has created over 400 different breeds of dog and burdened them with over 400 inherited diseases during the last 400 years. This places dogs as the species with the second largest number of known genetic diseases, surpassed only by humans. Genetic analysis of man's best friend will also help to uncover the genes responsible for the physical features and behaviors unique to each breed as well as the diseases to which they are commonly susceptible, such as cancer, epilepsy, allergies, deafness, blindness, heart disease and hip dysplasia.
More than 60% of canine inherited diseases are shared with humans and the coding sequences of dogs and humans show an overall greater similarity to each other than to mouse coding sequences. Thus, dogs can be used as models to understand many human diseases and to develop new more efficient and side-effect free therapies. Importantly, genetic research in dogs is believed to facilitate the understanding of genetic background of the common complex diseases, which have proven difficult to crack down in human. Dogs have faithfully served man in many duties and they are now also the best assistants of the geneticists.
Animal models serving in research may have an existing, inbred or induced disease or injury that is similar to a human condition. These test conditions are often termed as animal models of disease. The use of animal models allows researchers to investigate disease states in ways which would be inaccessible in a human patient, performing procedures on the non-human animal that imply a level of harm that would not be considered ethical to inflict on a human.
Disease model is the best source to explore cures of genetics disease. In order to serve as a useful model, a modeled disease must be similar in etiology (mechanism of cause) and function to the human equivalent. Animal models are used to learn more about a disease, its diagnosis and its treatment. For instance, behavioral analogues of anxiety or pain in laboratory animals can be used to screen and test new drugs for the treatment of these conditions in humans. Animal models of disease can be spontaneous (naturally occurring in animals), or be induced by physical, chemical or biological means. The production of permanent disease model animal will be a sad and unfortunate event for the individual animal. However conditional or inducible trait is more humanitarian than the permanently incorporated genes.
Dr. BC Lee, the dog cloning expert from Seoul National University in South Korea recently published the successful cloning of dogs with inducible genes. Animal suffering is minimized with less invasive procedure and pharmaceuticals or medical experiment near completion. Now we are repaying the aggressive breeding or animal experiment in the past by offering better environments for both pet and experiment animals.