Gene firm clones cat, spark­ing wide con­sumer in­ter­est

Global Times US Edition - - CHINA - By Liu Caiyu and Xu Keyue

Cat lovers who are dev­as­tated by the death of their beloved fe­lines may soon be able to have their pets cloned, fol­low­ing the birth of China’s first cloned kit­ten.

The cloned kit­ten, named “Gar­lic,” was born on July 21 and cloned at the lab­o­ra­to­ries of Sino­gene Biotech­nol­ogy Com­pany in Bei­jing.

The com­pany started its ex­per­i­ment on cat cloning in Au­gust 2018, and Gar­lic, a Bri­tish short­hair, was born 66 days af­ter an em­bryo was trans­ferred to a sur­ro­gate mother, the com­pany said at a press con­fer­ence on Monday in Bei­jing.

Gar­lic and the orig­i­nal cat, which sup­plied the cells, ap­pear iden­ti­cal but have dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­ments and per­son­al­i­ties, Lai Liangxue, the com­pany’s chief sci­en­tist and a re­search fel­low at the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. A cloned cat’s life ex­pectancy is the same as any other cat, Lai said.

Sino­gene deputy gen­eral man­ager Zhao Jian­ping said the suc­cess­ful cloning of Gar­lic will al­low the com­pany to of­fi­cially start of­fer­ing cat­cloning ser­vices, which is ex­pected to cost 250,000 yuan ($35,400) each.

The Bei­jing-based com­pany is mulling us­ing its cloning tech­nol­ogy on en­dan­gered an­i­mals.

Although the cloning tech­nol­ogy is mu­sic to pet own­ers, it re­mains con­tro­ver­sial among schol­ars. Many ar­gue that the an­i­mals suf­fer from the tech­no­log­i­cal process which also poses threat to their rights. Some worry the cloning tech­nol­ogy would ap­ply to hu­man be­ings one day, which might cause eth­i­cal prob­lems.

Chen Dayuan, a pro­fes­sor of the In­sti­tute of Zool­ogy of the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, noted at the Monday press con­fer­ence that his team was try­ing to inject a body cell from the panda into an enu­cle­ated egg cell taken from a cat, as both ba­bies are in sim­i­lar size and the ges­ta­tion pe­riod is both at two to three months.

China cre­ated the panda’s early em­bryo on in­ter­species cloning in 1999 and has yet to bear a cloned panda through the in­ter­species clone, Chen said.

“Be­cause of the lim­ited num­ber of en­dan­gered species, such as gi­ant pan­das, sci­en­tist can’t di­rectly con­duct cloning ex­per­i­ments on them un­less we can find a re­place­ment,” Lai ex­plained.

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