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With First-Ever Cloned Dog, Korean Researchers Create a Miracle

With First-Ever Cloned Dog, Korean Researchers Create a Miracle

Posted August. 04, 2005 03:13,   


“It’s alive! It’s alive!”

It was 7:00 p.m. on April 24 at the animal hospital of the College of Veterinary Medicine of Seoul National University.

When chair professor Hwang Woo-suk cut open the womb of a yellow mother dog, researchers cheered. When he held up a hairy black male puppy, researchers clapped their hands with teary eyes. That was the moment when the world’s first cloned dog, called “Snuppy” came into the world through a c-section. It weighed 530g, average for normal puppies.

It was a remarkable breakthrough after two years and eight months of numerous failures since Hwang and his researchers had begun dog-cloning research in August 2002. Dog cloning has been regarded as impossibility even for world-renowned cloning specialists so far.

“I realized that men can sometimes cry. We created a cloned dog from a vacuum.”

Professor Lee Byeong-cheon, who takes charge of day-to-day research operations, still feels the jubilation he felt at the birth of Snuppy.

Researchers were so overwhelmed that they cried when they found out about the pregnancy of the mother of Snuppy through a sonogram on March 16. That episode highlights the difficulty of dog cloning.

Professor Hwang and researchers created the country’s first cloned cow named “Young-long” in February 1999. But Japanese researchers were ahead of them, successfully cloning a cow the previous year.

The Korean team successfully cloned a genetically engineered pig. But again, two years before, British researchers cloned a pig already. So they renewed their determination not to allow anybody else to create the world’s first cloned dog ahead of them.

In August 2002 professors Hwang, Lee and Kang Seong-keun formed a 10-person dog cloning team. It included two foreign students in PhD courses from Indonesia and Bangladesh.

One year later, in August 2003, the team first found out through a sonogram that the mother dog was pregnant. But their joy was short-lived. Dog-cloning was not that easy. The dog had a miscarriage on the 48th day after fertilization, 15 days earlier than the planned delivery date, given that a dog’s pregnancy lasts 63 days. Tears welled up in the eyes of some frustrated researchers who had worked from 6:00 a.m. to midnight everyday. The second cloned dog, which was born in May after Snuppy, died of pneumonia on the 22nd day after its birth. Again, many researchers were immensely disappointed.

“You succeed only when you work hard enough to move even the heavens.” Professor Hwang said, encouraging researchers whenever they faced challenges.

There have been many unexpected difficulties. Last summer, Professor Lee, one of leaders of the team, had his hand bitten by a dog when he attempted to take a blood sample to measure the concentration of hormone to predict ovulation. He ended up having six stitches to close the wound.

Dr. Kim Min-gyu said, “Every researcher including women has been bitten by a dog,” adding, “We even jokingly say that the person with the biggest wound will lead the team.”

Professor Lee’s car also had hard time. The car was used to carry dogs from a laboratory animal company in Gyeonggi-do to the laboratory at Seoul National University last year. After the car carried dogs dozens of times, the car smelled like dogs. In the end, no one would dare get in the car except for the researchers who could stand the dog smell. Fortunately, a new car has arrived to be used for that purpose thanks to newly allocated government budget money.

The team’s success in creating the world’s first cloned dog was unveiled on August 3, the 102nd day since the birth of "Snuppy". The dog celebrated its 100th day in world’s spotlight.