West Yorkshire couple Laura Jacques and Richard Remde enlisted South Korean firm offering dog-cloning service for £67,000
A British couple have made history after a surrogate dog gave birth to the first cloned puppy of its kind on Boxing Day.
In the first case of its kind, the boxer puppy was cloned from the couples dead dog, Dylan, almost two weeks after it died. The previous limit for dog cloning was five days after death.
Laura Jacques, 29, and Richard Remde 43, from West Yorkshire, were grief stricken after their boxer died at the age of eight in June, having been diagnosed earlier this year with a brain tumour.
The pair decided to try to clone Dylan and enlisted the services of the controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which offers a commercial dog-cloning service for $100,000 (67,000) per procedure. It is the only laboratory of its kind in the world. They have hailed the birth as a miracle.
The male puppy has been named Chance, after a character in Jacques favourite film, Disneys Homeward Bound. He is expected to be joined in three days time by a second cloned puppy this one will be named Shadow after another character in the film.
Jacques said she and Remde were overwhelmed after witnessing the birth by caesarean section on Saturday in the operating theatre at Sooam.
The whole thing just feels surreal, she said. I lost all sense of time. I have no idea how long everything took, the whole thing made me feel very disoriented. I was just clinging on to Richard for about an hour and a half after Chance was born.
After they got him out I still couldnt quite believe it had happened. But once he started making noises I knew it was real. Even as a puppy of just a few minutes old I cant believe how much he looks like Dylan. All the colourings and patterns on his body are in exactly the same places as Dylan had them.
Remde said: I was much more overwhelmed with emotion at the birth than I expected to be.
The couple said the puppy was feeding well from his mother. Im trying to get my head round the fact that this puppy has 100% of the same DNA as Dylan, said Jacques. Its quite confusing but Im telling myself that Chance is just like one of Dylans puppies.
I had had Dylan since he was a puppy, she said. I mothered him so much, he was my baby, my child, my entire world.
Sooam, the leading laboratory in the world for dog cloning, has produced more than 700 dogs for commercial customers. The technique involves implanting DNA into a blank dog egg that has had the nucleus removed.
Jacques heard about dog cloning from a documentary about a competition Sooam ran for one UK dog owner to have their dog cloned free of charge. Rebecca Smith was the winner and her dachshund, Winnie, who is still alive, was successfully cloned.
David Kim, a scientist at Sooam, said the birth of the two cloned dogs was exciting for the laboratory because samples were taken from Dylan 12 days after he died. This is the first case we have had where cells have been taken from a dead dog after a very long time, he said. Hopefully it will allow us to extend the time after death that we can take cells for cloning.
There are no regulations on the cloning of pets, although the cloning of human beings is illegal, and in August the European parliament voted to outlaw the cloning of farm animals.
Hwang Woo-suk, one of the leading researchers at the Sooam laboratory, is a controversial figure. In 2004, he led a research group at Seoul University, in South Korea, which claimed to have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube. An independent scientific committee found no evidence of this and in January 2006 the journal Science, which had originally published the research, retracted it. He was part of the team delivering the cloned puppy on Boxing Day.
The RSPCA expressed concern about dog cloning. A spokesperson said: There are serious ethical and welfare concerns relating to the application of cloning technology to animals. Cloning animals requires procedures that cause pain and distress, with extremely high failure and mortality rates. There is also a body of evidence that cloned animals frequently suffer physical ailments such as tumours, pneumonia and abnormal growth patterns.
Jacques, a dog walker, and Remde, who runs a building company, Heritage Masonry & Conservation, had to take two sets of samples from their dead dog after the first set of samples did not grow in the laboratory. Remde made two trips in quick succession to South Korea to deliver the cell samples. They are now waiting for the birth of the second puppy and are hoping to adopt the puppies two surrogate mothers and bring four dogs back to the UK next July after the quarantine period has ended.
Key dates in the cloning of Dylan
11 June: Couple told their eight-year-old boxer dog Dylan has an inoperable brain tumour. They were told he might live for up to 18 months with treatment.
30 June: Dylan dies after a cardiac arrest.
1 & 2 July: Vet allows the couple to keep Dylan with them for a few days before burying him. Jacques starts researching the possibilities of cloning a dead dog.
2 July: Dylan is refrigerated in a funeral parlour. Couple purchase medical equipment from Boots to take a skin sample from Dylan to send to Sooam in South Korea in the hope that they can clone him.
4 July: Remde flies to South Korea with the samples, delivers them to laboratory staff waiting at the airport and immediately gets on a plane back to the UK.
5 July: Dylans remains are frozen until a date is fixed for his burial.
6 July: Sooam says it does not think the samples Remde has flown to South Korea could be used to create a cloned puppy.
7 July: Sooam asks whether the couple still have the dog and if so whether they want to try to extract more samples for cloning.
10 July: The couple struggle to take samples from Dylan, whose body remains frozen before burial. A small sample of cells is finally secured around midnight.
11 July: Remde flies to South Korea again to deliver the samples. Sooam receives the cells having never attempted to clone a dog 12 days after its death.
21t October: Sooam confirms the cells have grown to a sufficient degree that the cloning process could start.
23 November: Sooam says a pregnancy has been verified.
24 November: Sooam says a second pregnancy has been verified.
26 December: First boxer puppy is born on Boxing Day.
29 December: Second puppy due.