Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book Review: Dog, Inc. (cloning) Part Two of Two

Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, by John Woestendiek, Avery Publishing (Penguin Books), 2011, 320 pp, $26.00. (Current cover subtitle: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics, and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry)

An Ethical Dilemma? A Three-way Battle for Success?

Marketing experts capitalize on grief. In a world of pet overpopulation, when thousands are euthanized every year, why factory farm dogs? “It took eight years of trial and error, at two universities, on two continents, to clone the world’s first dog: only two more years to put that service on the market. . . .” (p 13) for bereaved dog owners and transgenic researchers.

The dog owners in mourning want to assuage their grief and just get their best friend back.

The scientists say experience, training and personality can’t be cloned. There is no no guarantee of identical personality – instead, the assurance of a different personality is much more likely.

How Expensive is Cloning?

April 24, 2004 produced Snuppy (from SNU, Seoul National University, and ‘puppy’) from the skin cell of an American Afghan hound with an egg cell from a Korean farm dog (1 of more than 100 donors) placed in a surrogate yellow Lab named Simba (Swahili for lion) (1 of 120 surrogates).

Result: one stillborn fetus, one pup who died after two days and – Snuppy. A cost of millions and a cast of millions. . . . Snuppy then lived the next five years in a research laboratory, with a couple of walks a day outside. Was it worth it? With a success rate as low as 0.09%, many people feel canine cloning is ethically indefensible.

How expensive is cloning? Not only in dollars but also in resources and animal lives? The first attempt at cloning a cat used 188 nuclear transplants, yielded 82 embryos transferred into 7 cats - none of which developed - so none succeeded in producing a cloned cat.

The first successful (2001) cloned cat, CC (for ‘carbon copy’), however, was a calico, destined to disappoint because calicos (females) never look exactly like their mother so CC didn’t look like her original donor (the orange, black, and white patches on calico cats are due to chance [which X chromosome of two, is turned on] not heredity) as all high-school biology students learn. After all, Dolly the (first sheep cloned from another adult mammal [it took 277 attempts] in 1996) sheep had health problems and died young.

How to Clone a Dog

1. Remove the nucleus from a dog’s egg (vacuum it out)
2. Insert the skin cell from another dog
3. Immerse in a chemical bath (and zap with electricity) until the fertilized egg divides then implant in a dog surrogate mother

Would We Recommend This Book?

Dog cloning and its complex history is not made any more understandable by Dog, Inc., which flits from one topic to another and back again. This works comparatively well for tragically entertaining character subplots but, as a scientist, I quickly became lost in the data and numbers, so I assume a non-scientist would become really mixed up.

I would have preferred a bibliography: interested readers will want to read more and numerous magazine articles over the years mentioned in Dog, Inc., that people will want to read. And parts of this book should have a caveat, “Not for the queasy”: too much information is revealed about the Korean dog markets (dog farms), similar to US puppy mills because in Korea, few dogs are family pets – most are research subjects or end up as food. All in all, though, rather than cloning, I prefer to keep the memory of my heart dog forever in my heart.

*clone: nuclear transplantation resulting in a genetic identical twin

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