Cats, as we know, have nine lives. On October 17, 2004 in the laboratory of the Genetic Savings & Clone Inc, Nikki, the Maine Coon cat started her second life. Little Nikki, a replica of the original Nikki who died a year earlier at age 19, became the first animal clone created for commercial rather than scientific purposes in a commercial rather than scientific laboratory .
To produce Little Nikki, researchers used a technology known as chromatin transfer, in which Nicky’s DNA was transplanted into an egg cell whose nucleus had been removed. The embryo was then placed in the womb of a surrogate mother who gave birth to Little Nikki.
It was a risky process, however. Lou Hawthorne, Genetic Savings and Clone’s chief executive, said that roughly a third of the clones in their experiments did not survive beyond 60 days. Between 15% and 45% of cloned cats born alive die within 30 days.
The company that offered the cloning service, Genetic Savings and Clone, was launched in 2000 by billionaire and University of Phoenix founder John Sperling. Sperling had hoped to have his hunting dog Missy cloned, but scientists were never able to accomplish that feat. Nonetheless, Sperling decided to go into the business of trying to help others recreate their dearly departed pets.
Unfortunately, even for the most devoted of pet owners, there’s a limit to how much they’ll pay to have their dearly departed feline recreated. Genetic Savings and Clone’s hefty $50,000 price tag was just too much to generate much interest in their services. The company recently reduced the price to $32,000, but still there were no takers. The company sent letters to its customers last month letting them know that they will have to close at the end of the year. The letters said that Genetic Savings and Clone has been “unable to develop the technology to the point that cloning pets is commercially viable.” (– Genetic Savings and Clone Forced to Shut Down.)
The company closed in 2006. Before Nikki there were goat, cow, rabbit, horse, mule, deer, mouse and the famous sheep Doll, all created in scientific labs. By the beginning of 2000s cloning technology was already fairly well developed, and scientists were able to clone human embryonic stem cells, an invaluable biological material from human tissue genetically suitable individual patient.
Many people were convinced that somewhere in clandestine laboratories human cloning is about to begin, or is in full swing. Reflecting the collective paranoia, in 2002, the second episode of George Lucas’ Star Wars, Attack of the Clones in the final epic battle two armies, biological clones and mechanical droids.
- Genetic Science Learning Center, University of Utah: “Cloning in Focus“
- National Geographic News, “Cat Cloning Offered to Pet Owners“
- Genetic Savings and Clone, Inc., “Our Clients and Their Cats“
- The Humane Society of the United States, “Cat Cloning is Wrong-Headed“
- Friends of the Earth, “Prevent Cloning“
- Genetic Savings and Clone, Inc., “Ethical Debates“