Chinese citizen Huang Yu dug up his beloved deceased pet cat for cells to give to biotechnology firm Sinogene. Now he is owner of China’s first cloned kitten.
When his cat, Garlic, died, Huang was devastated. So, he searched for a company that could create a new Garlic. The firm, based in Beijing, charged Huang approximately $35,000 for the cloning, according to China’s The Global Times.
The clone was also named Garlic and was born this past summer. Huang told The New York Times, “In my heart, Garlic is irreplaceable. Garlic didn’t leave anything for future generations, so I could only choose to clone.”
Sinogene has provided cloning services before and has successfully cloned 40 dogs (which is nuts when you think about it). Cats, however, are gaining popularity as pets in China, so the company decided to try the procedure with Garlic. Dogs are cloned for $53,000 each, so in comparison a cat is a bargain.
Garlic was a British short-haired that died from urinary tract disease. In order to clone to deceased feline, Sinogene first obtained skin cells from Garlic. The DNA from the cells was combined with eggs from other cats to create about 40 embryos. Then scientists implanted the embroyos among four surrogate cats. Three pregnancies resulted with two of the pregnancies ending in miscarriages.
The cloned kitten has Garlic’s DNA, but DNA is a complicated thing, so some physical markings are missing, like a black spot on her chin.
Huang told The New York Times he was disappointed. “But I’m also willing to accept that there are certain situations in which there are limitations to the technology.”
The cloning industry is largely unregulated in China. Ethical issues, such as animal cruelty and genetics, have been raised in response to the news surfacing about Garlic. Ethicists also question the use of surrogate cats reduced to being carriers for the clones.
Meanwhile the scientists at Sinogene are moving forward with marketing their pet cloning services. Next on their list is perfecting the ability to transfer the memories of the original animals to the clones via artificial intelligence or some other man-machine interface (YIKES). As it stands now, Sinogene has several orders pending for cloned cats using their current technology.
You could say that they’re making…copy cats. :3