LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Have you ever loved a pet so much you wanted to clone it?
That option is now a possibility. Here’s how one biotech company is capitalizing on people who want their dogs to live on forever.
A company called Viagen has been cloning livestock for more than 15 years. They’ve cloned cattle, horses, pigs and sheep. Two years ago they moved beyond the farm and started cloning pets.
“People have a hard time wrapping their brain around that it is a real technology. The dog that you are going to clone is not going to be a Frankenstein,” Viagen manager Melain Rodriguez said. “It’s just a normal dog, just a normal dog like any other dog.
Rodriguez showed of Baxter, an adorable 9-month old toy poodle, and also a clone.
“You would never know that he’s a cloned puppy. We like to say a genetic twin just born at a different time.”
Cloning starts when your vet takes four small skin samples from your pet. It is a simple procedure — and most dogs go home the same day. Some owners have it done when their dog is under anesthesia for something as routine as a dental cleaning.
“Every vet on the planet can do this and preserve the DNA very very easily,” veterinarian Dr. Mike Hutchinson said. “It’s things we do every day in practice almost.”
Hutchinson just performed the procedure for a client who asked to have a pet cloned as a final wish.
“From that little skin sample, we culture millions and millions of cells, and these are cells that contain the pet’s complete DNA, and that’s all we need for cloning,” Rodriguez said.
The biopsy is sent to Viagen at its lab in Texas.
Viagen chooses a surrogate approximately the size of your pet to carry your cloned puppy.
Once a cell line is established they use those cells to produce cloned embryos and then transfer them into a surrogate dog who has a normal gestation and then you’ve got a puppy that is born that is a genetic twin to that original pet.
Even dogs that are sick or have cancer can be cloned.
“They can take a cell from anywhere in the body and even if you take a 16-year-old dog and you decide now I want to do it, is he too old? does he have old cells? It resets the clock. They go back to young again, which is pretty unique,” Hutchinson said.
“Our big goal right now is to increase efficiency so we can drive down price and bring the technology to more people,” Rodriguez said.
It’s not just purebred dogs being cloned. Many are mixed breeds or rescues.
“They have a pet that they love very much. They have a unique bond with that pet, and they want to extend that bond,” Rodriguez said.
The current waiting list for dog cloning is about three months. The cost is about $50,000. Viagen says that with increasing demand it’s quite possible the price will eventually come down.
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