Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 09:39 UK

Firm claims first pet dog clones


The embryos were created from skin cells from Booger

Scientists in South Korea say they have successfully completed the world's first commercial cloning of a pet dog.

Bernann McKinney, from the US state of California, stumped up $50,000 (25,000) for five identical copies of Booger, her beloved pit bull terrier.

The puppy clones were unveiled at a press conference in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on Tuesday.

"Booger was my partner and my friend," Ms McKinney said, as she appeared with the five identical copies of her pet.

Scientists at Seoul National University created a number of embryos from preserved skin cells taken from Booger's ear tissue before he died.

The embryos were then implanted into two surrogate mother dogs and, three months later, the puppies were born.

Among the scientists involved in the project was Professor Lee Byeong-chun, who was part of the team that created the world's first cloned dog - Snuppy the Afghan hound - in 2005.

Difficult process

"They are perfectly the same as their daddy. I am in heaven here. I am a happy person," Ms McKinney said at a televised press conference, with tears in her eyes.

Bernann McKinney with one of the cloned puppies, 5 Aug
Ms McKinney hopes to recreate the personality of the puppies' father

The former beauty queen, from Hollywood, recalled how Booger once saved her life by chasing off another dog that had attacked her, leaving her with serious wounds.

She said: "Booger had a kindness in his heart and I believe that kindness is something that can be, I don't want to use the word reproduced, but the best way Dr Lee explained it is we can give him his body, you are going to give him the love and environment to recreate the original Booger's personality."

She said she was considering training some of the puppies to help the handicapped or elderly after they are delivered to her in the US in September.

It is not the first time that scientists have cloned a dog, but the process is notoriously difficult and the Korean team say this is the first commercial success, says the BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul.

The company which arranged the cloning, RNL Bio, says it is now open for future bookings.

As the technology improves, the price is expected to drop.

Chief executive Ra Jeong-Chan told AFP news agency that RNL Bio could clone up to 300 dogs next year for wealthy pet lovers.

He added: "For my next project, I will consider cloning camels for rich people in the Middle East."

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