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First cloned dog becomes a doggie dad

September 9, 2008 |  4:45 pm

Snuppy From the Associated Press:

SEOUL — Snuppy — the world’s first cloned dog — is a father.

A team of Seoul National University scientists said Tuesday that 10 puppies were born in May using sperm from Snuppy to artificially inseminate two cloned female dogs. The scientists say the births mark the world’s first breeding among cloned dogs, though breeding among cloned rats, cows and pigs has successfully been carried out.

"Scientific doubt over whether breeding by cloned dogs is possible has been resolved,” Lee Byeong-Chun, head of the research team, told the Associated Press.

Lee said his team has cloned about 30 dogs and five wolves since it succeeded in cloning Snuppy in April 2005. The Seoul National University team suffered a blow to its reputation after internationally acclaimed breakthroughs in stem cell research by its former head, Hwang Woo-Suk, were found to have been faked. Lee said the university’s forensic medicine team has identified Snuppy’s pups as his offspring through DNA tests.

He also said he presented the births to an international conference in Greece late last month. A cloning expert in Britain said the development wasn’t significant, since other cloned animals — including the world’s first, Dolly the sheep — have successfully produced offspring. “We haven’t really seen problems with the offspring of clones. Dolly had little lambs and they were fine and very cute,” Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics at Britain’s National Institute for Medical Research, said in London.

Lovell-Badge said Snuppy’s puppies would certainly be the first from a cloned dog. She noted that breeding among cloned animals has not proved problematic. “There is some evidence that clones can have defects because of a failure to correctly program some imprinted genes, but most evidence is that once you breed from a cloned animal, everything is back to normal,” Lovell-Badge said.

Snuppy, a black Afghan hound, has been living at a university facility with three female dogs — tan Afghan hounds cloned by the team in 2006. Lee said Tuesday that his team injected Snuppy’s sperm into two of the three female clones — Bona and Hope — in March using artificial fertilization. One of the 10 puppies — four from Bona and six from Hope — died of a digestive problem about a month after birth, but the rest are all healthy, the team said.

Photo: Researcher Hwang Woo-Suk holds a young Snuppy.  You Sung-Ho/Reuters.

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