A Chinese businessman who couldn’t bear the loss of his beloved cat,Garlic, is now the proud pet parent of Garlic II, a clone of his late furry friend.
Huang Yu, 22, sought the services of Beijing-based Sinogene, a commercial pet-cloning company that has already cloned more than 40 dogs — at a cost of about $53,000 each. Yu’s copy cat, born July 21 with the same white-and-gray fur pattern as Garlic, ran him about $35,000. It was the company’s first successful cat clone.
Yu told the New York Times that he’d already buried the original cat — who died of a UTI at age 2 in January — when he decided to go through with the cloning. But first, he had to unearth Garlic’s corpse, and put the animal in his freezer until an employee from Sinogene could come and take a DNA sample.
The morbid prep work was all worth it in the end, though.
“In my heart, Garlic is irreplaceable,” said Yu. “Garlic didn’t leave anything for future generations, so I could only choose to clone.”
To create Garlic 2.0, scientists took skin cells from the original Garlic and implanted them into feline eggs, producing 40 cloned embryos. Chen Benchi, the head of Sinogene’s experiments team, told the Times that the embryos were then placed in surrogate cats, which led to three pregnancies, though only one made it to full term.
Though pets have been cloned in other parts of the world, such as South Korea, Britain and the US, industry experts say China’s first cat clone is a milestone for the commercial cloning sector, which is increasingly attracting private pet owners — and not just high-profile animal lovers, such as Barbra Streisand who paid $50,000 for a clone of her maltipoo, Sammie.
“In fact, a large proportion of customers are young people who have only graduated in the last few years,” Sinogene CEO Mi Jidong told AFP. “Whatever the origin of pets, owners will see them as part of the family. Pet cloning meets the emotional needs of young generations.”
Sinogene says it hopes to use its technology for public interest, such as the viability of cloning endangered giant pandas or South China tigers, though Mi believes that endeavor “will be quite difficult” and take “more time.”
Panda expert Chen Dayuan, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told AFP that there may be a possibility for cats to act as surrogates to baby pandas, which are born smaller than infant kittens.
While the new Garlic appears healthy, Huang admitted he was “disappointed” the kitten did not appear to be an exact replica, missing a distinctive patch of black fur on the chin that his namesake had, but, Huang added, “I’m also willing to accept that there are certain situations in which there are limitations to the technology.”
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