She Is the Cat's Meow in Cloning
In an advance that takes cloning out of the barnyard and into the living room, researchers announced yesterday they have cloned a cat. The domestic shorthaired female kitten, named Cc: for the secretarial designation for carbon copy, was born Dec. 22 and is healthy and frisky, researcher Duane Kraemer of Texas A&M University in College Station said.
Headed up by Dr. Mark Westhusin of A&M's veterinary medicine school, the project is the first reported success in cloning dogs or cats, which has been long discussed for pet owners. Many people have already stored cells from their pets in anticipation of cloning in the future, said Kraemer. "It looks like there will probably be quite a lot of interest," he said.
The effort was supported by a company, Genetic Savings & Clone, of College Station, Texas, and Sausalito, Calif., which wants to offer cloning to dog and cat owners. It is investing $3.7 million in the project. "We are intending to commercialize pet cloning as soon as we are able to do it consistently, safely and successfully," said Ben Carlson, a spokesman for Genetic Savings & Clone.
A cloned pet won't necessarily be a carbon copy in appearance to the original. The calico kitten differs from its genetic donor in its color pattern, because such coloring is not strictly determined by the lineup of genes. "This is a reproduction," Kraemer said, "not a resurrection."
Pet-cloning proponents also say pet owners should realize a clone won't come equipped with a ready-made bond to the owner or carry other memories. But Kraemer and Randall Prather, an animal cloner at the University of Missouri who wasn't involved in the project, say cloning cats could pay off for more than pet owners.
It could help research that uses cats for learning about human diseases, they said. Kraemer noted that cats are used in neurological research, and that a colleague wanted cat clones to help in AIDS research. Moreover, the work could help in preserving endangered cat species, they said.
But Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president for the Humane Society of the United States, called the new advance "unfortunate news." Scientists should be moving away from using animals in research, and the biggest problem endangered cat species face is habitat destruction, he said. As for people who'd like a new version of a deceased cat, Pacelle said many communities have too many cats for too few homes, and cat cloning "goes in the opposite direction of where we need to be."