A member of disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk's team has successfully cloned three female Afghan hounds. The three puppies, named Bona (Latin for blessings), Peace and Hope, were created following the scandal in which Hwang's reported breakthrough in creating cloned human cell lines was discredited. Of the team's cloning research only the creation of Snuppy, a male Afghan hound, was found to be genuine. The team, from Seoul National University (SNU), was led by Lee Byeong-chun a key member of Hwang's research team also involved in the creation of Snuppy. Identical technology was used to create the dogs - but these demonstrate that the technique can also be successfully carried out to create female dogs and the success rate is reported to be considerably higher. The animals were born in June and July of 2006.
The team took cells from the ear of a female adult Afghan hound named Jessica. They then transferred the nucleus of one adult cell into an egg cell which had had the nucleus removed, the process was repeated until one hundred and sixty seven cloned embryos had been created. These were then implanted into twelve surrogate mothers, resulting in the eventual birth of three puppies. This compares to over a thousand cloned embryos that were implanted into 123 surrogates to create Snuppy. A second hound was also created at the same time as Snuppy, but died a month after birth. The cloned females are genetically and phenotypically identical to the donor. The research is reported in the veterinary journal Theriogenology.
Lee was implicated in Hwang's fraudulent research and was suspended by SNU for three months last year. He returned to work in October 2006 and is being supported by the university. Lee, along with Hwang, is involved in an ongoing criminal trial for fabricating research data and embezzling research funds.
In related news the world's first cloned cat, named CC (short for copy cat), has given birth to three kittens at Texas A and M University. The kittens were created in the traditional way to demonstrate that cloned animals are able to reproduce normally. Two of the kittens resemble their mother CC, while the remaining animal has a grey coat similar to the father, Smokey a grey tabby. Duane Kraemer, a professor of veterinary medicine at the university who helped to clone CC said that although CC is not the first cloned cat to have kittens, 'They're cute and we thought people ought to know about the birth'.
CC was born in December 2001 using the same technique that was used to create Dolly the sheep at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. The breakthrough stimulated interest in creating cloned pets but the only business that managed to clone cats commercially - Genetic Savings and Clone Inc - closed last year. As fur patterning is determined in the womb, not purely genetically, cloned cats can look remarkably dissimilar to the genetic parent. Texas A and M University has cloned more species than any other institution worldwide, successfully creating cloned cows, pigs, goats, horses and deer.