The Price of Eternal Companionship: Exploring Pet Cloning

In a recent YouTube video titled “My Puppy is Back,” a content creator showcased the genetic clones of her beloved dog, Tico, who passed away a year ago. The emotional video ignited a heated debate regarding the ethical implications of cloning pets, a practice that currently lacks regulations. 

The YouTuber expressed her hope of raising awareness about pet cloning and offering solace to those suffering from the loss of their animal companions. However, the video has drawn criticism from various individuals, including fellow dog owners, who question the morality of cloning dogs and expressed concerns about the potential mistreatment of the cloned pets. 

The ethical debate surrounding animal cloning is not new, but this particular case brought the issue to the forefront. Understanding the scientific aspects of pet cloning is essential to discussing adequate regulations and management. 

Cloning, particularly performed through Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), has been applied to approximately 22 animal species, with 19 successfully reaching adulthood. Dolly the sheep -cloned in 1996- is renowned as the first cloned mammal, setting the stage for the subsequent cloning attempts in various species. The interest in cloning, however, has decreased since its peak in 1997. The reasons for this decline remain speculative, with suggestions ranging from lacking ethical standards to lacking novelty in research. 

Canine cloning specifically presents unique challenges due to the complexity of dog reproductive physiology. The first successful cloning of a dog occurred in 2005, making it the 15th animal to be cloned. Over the last two decades, more than 1000 cloned dogs have been produced, owing to the success of optimized techniques. 

Despite the challenges associated with canine cloning, technological advancements have been made. This process involves selecting surrogates, utilizing hormone level detection for oocyte donor and surrogate matching, and minimizing in vitro culture of oocytes. The results indicate a higher cloning efficiency in dogs compared to other commonly cloned species. 

Moreover, the knowledge gained from canine cloning has potential implications for human medical advances. Dogs share a considerable number of genetic traits and diseases with humans, making them valuable models for research in areas such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, organ transplantation, drug development, and psychological disorders. 

The ethical concerns voiced by critics surround the potential exploitation of cloned animals and the lack of legal regulations. The fear of mistreatment and abandonment, as expressed by some dog owners, highlights the need for a comprehensive framework to ensure the well-being of cloned pets. 

As the debate progresses, it is crucial to consider the observations made in canine cloning, including cloning efficiency, postnatal survival, and phenotypic variations. The cloning efficiency, based on the number of live offspring produced from reconstructed oocytes, surpasses 2.0%, higher than many other reported species. Postnatal survival rates are promising, with minimal losses after parturition, and adult cloned dogs exhibit longevity comparable to breed averages. 

Phenotypic variations in cloned dogs, such as sex reversal, odd eye (heterochromia iridis), and microphthalmia, provide valuable insights into genetic and epigenetic factors. These observations open avenues for further research into developmental conditions and their relevance to both animals and humans. 

In conclusion, the ethical debate surrounding pet cloning remains multifaceted. The scientific advancements in canine cloning offer a glimpse into the potential benefits for both veterinary and human medical research. However, the concerns raised by critics highlight the need for responsible practices, legal regulations, and ongoing ethical evaluations to ensure the well-being of cloned animals in this evolving technological landscape.

Works Cited 

Olsson, P.O., Jeong, Y.W., Jeong, Y. et al. Insights from one thousand cloned dogs. Sci Rep 12, 11209 (2022). 

Wells DN. Animal cloning: problems and prospects. Rev Sci Tech. 2005 Apr;24(1):251-64. PMID: 16110893. 

Lee SH, Oh HJ, Kim MJ, Kim GA, Setyawan EMN, Ra K, Abdillah DA, Lee BC. Dog cloning-no longer science fiction. Reprod Domest Anim. 2018 Nov;53 Suppl 3:133-138. doi: 10.1111/rda.13358. PMID: 30474338. 

Kim MJ, Oh HJ, Kim GA, Park JE, Park EJ, Jang G, Ra JC, Kang SK, Lee BC. Lessons learned from cloning dogs. Reprod Domest Anim. 2012 Aug;47 Suppl 4:115-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0531.2012.02064.x. PMID: 22827359.

By. Hayoung Kim