RNL BioStar, Inc., Jin Han Hong/AP
Bernann McKinney from the U.S. received the five puppies -- copies of her beloved late
pitbull 'Booger' -- from a South Korean biotech firm in what it calls the world's first
commercial canine
cloning service. (AP)

Five Clones Reunite Woman with Deceased Dog

August 06, 2008 11:45 AM
by Rachel Balik
A California woman who commissioned a Korean company to clone her dead pit bull, Booger, will bring home the first commercially cloned puppies.

30-Second Summary

After successfully creating five cloned pit bull puppies for a bereaved American whose dog, Booger, died of cancer in 2006, a Korean company is going into the commercial cloning business. “RNL Bio is commencing its worldwide services with Booger as its first successful clone,” the company announced.

Booger’s owner, Bernann McKinney, began looking for someone to clone her dog as soon as she found out he had cancer. She had found him by the side of the road, and soon after she brought him home, he rescued her from an attack by another dog. Booger was also injured, and pet and owner healed together. “Everywhere Booger went, he’d spread his special brand of magic,” McKinney told the Baltimore Sun. She says he helped her get dressed, brought her clean clothes from the dryer and sodas from the fridge.

Booger is considered the first commercially cloned animal, although scientists have been successfully cloning animals since Dolly the sheep in 1997. When Dolly was born, governments rushed to make regulations about the future of cloning. But a Time magazine editorial observed, “You can outlaw technique; you cannot repeal biology.”

The first dog was cloned in 2005, and many were wary of ethical consequences. Animal rights activists accurately predicted what it meant for the future. Dr. Freda Scott-Park, president-elect of the British Veterinary Association, told the BBC, “Sadly, however, the media interest is likely to attract pet owners keen to re-create their much loved pets.”

‘Pet Pitbull Cloned in Commercial First’

“RNL Bio is commencing its worldwide services with Booger as its first successful clone,” the company announced. Korean scientist Lee Byeong-chun of RNL Bio took frozen cells from the diseased American dog, Booger, and implanted them in surrogate mothers, producing five Booger puppy clones. McKinney’s relationship with Booger made her feel that he was “more than just a canine companion.” The company hopes to begin a business of cloning 300 dogs a year. 
As soon as McKinney heard that Booger had cancer, she searched for someone to clone him. “Everywhere Booger went, he'd spread his special brand of magic,” the former beauty queen said. Her bond with Booger was formed when she was attacked by another dog. Reportedly, Booger rescued her and helped her heal. She says that he brought her clothes to help her get dressed and sodas from the fridge while she recovered from the accident, which had severed her hand.
In a video interview with the BBC, Bernann McKinney, Booger’s owner, explains her decision to have her dog cloned for the price of $50,000. She says that when her dog died, she was “pining” for him.

Signing the contract and earlier clones

McKinney made headlines when she signed her contract with RNL Bio in February 2008. The original contract was for $150,000; however, RNL eventually reduced their fees in exchange for publicity. At the time, the Humane Society criticized the idea of “commercial cloning,” on the grounds that the health of the animal created could be compromised.
In August 2005, scientists at Seoul National University successfully cloned the first dog. Preceded by a host of failed attempts, the process was difficult. The university stated that since dogs and humans shared certain diseases, the clones “could be very valuable in finding technologies useful for curing human diseases.” But public response was tentative and wary.
When scientists first proved they could clone a mammal, Dolly the sheep, in 1997, the response was first and foremost unease and surprise. Writing for Time magazine, Charles Krauthammer noted that many people would be thinking Frankenstein-esque thoughts. He predicted that fear, and even laws, would do nothing to stop the advance of cloning, arguing, “You can outlaw technique; you cannot repeal biology.”
Dolly the sheep died at the young age of six and a half, after suffering from a lung disease that usually plagues older sheep. Scientists have found that some cloned animals actually have lower life spans than naturally born animals, because they have shorter telomeres, pieces of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes. “They shorten as cells divide and are therefore considered a measure of ageing in cells,” a New Scientist article explains.

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