Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Firm hails dog clone breakthrough

Two puppies cloned from a beagle in South Korea on 28/1/09
The cloned puppies are named Magic and Stem

A South Korean firm says cloning pets could become cheaper in future thanks to a new technique it has developed.

RNL Bio said it had successfully cloned two puppies from a beagle using stem cells from the dog's fat tissue.

The firm said its new technique had more than doubled the success rate of the current method of cloning.

There has been no independent confirmation of the claim, but South Korea has become a world leader in the lucrative field of cloning pets.

Last year, RNL Bio claimed to have produced the world's first commercially-cloned dog, a pitbull terrier for a woman in the US.

In recent days, a couple in Florida received a puppy cloned in South Korea from their dead pet at a cost of $155,000.

Sniffer dogs

Conventionally, scientists use skin cells taken from the donor to extract the DNA that they fuse with an egg to make a clone, the BBC's science reporter Matt McGrath says.

If we fully develop this technology, dog cloning will be much easier than now. We can reduce the cost for cloning.
Ra Jeongchan
RNL Bio Chief Executive

But last October, RNL Bio said, its scientists extracted fat tissue from the beagle, isolated and expanded the stem cells and developed 84 embryos that were transplanted into five surrogate mother dogs.

One of those gave birth to two puppies, Magic and Stem, this week.

In a statement, the Seoul-based firm said this technique had a 20% chance of success - an improvement over the single digit rate of the current method.

And it said this method could reduce the cost of cloning a pet dog by about half, to $50,000, in three years.

"If we fully develop this technology, dog cloning will be much easier than now. We can reduce the cost for cloning," said RNL Bio Chief Executive Ra Jeongchan.

Dogs are considered one of the more difficult animals to clone, and this new technique could help develop this fledgling industry, our reporter says.

There is expected to be considerable demand for cloned sniffer dogs, as well as for pets.

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