SCIENTISTS have produced Britain’s first cloned dog after its owner won a competition to have her elderly pet replicated.
The tiny dachshund puppy, weighing just over 1lb (454g), was born in Seoul, South Korea, at the end of last month following a Channel 4 television competition offering the procedure free of charge.
A 12-year-old dog called Winnie, owned by Rebecca Smith, a cook from west London, provided the DNA to be cloned.
The development comes after researchers at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh produced the first mammal to be cloned from an adult, Dolly the Sheep, in 1996.
Ms Smith said: “She is the best sausage dog in the world. She is desperate to be cloned. The world will be a better place with more Winnies in it. Everyone who meets her loves her.”
The 29-year-old told how she acquired Winnie when she was 18 and the pet had helped her overcome the eating disorder bulimia.
Sooam Biotech, the company that carried out the £60,000 test-tube procedure, has already created more than 500 cloned dogs for owners around the world but “mini Winnie” is the first British dog cloned.
A sample of Winnie’s tissue was taken and stored in liquid nitrogen before being transported to South Korea.
In Seoul, her cells were put into eggs from a donor dog of the same breed and a cloned embryo was created. The embryo was implanted into a surrogate dog and the cloned puppy was born later by caesarean section.
However, Sir Ian Wilmut, the professor who led the Dolly team, said a cloned dog may not share the original’s traits.
“I think that the owners might be disappointed – so much of the personality of a dog probably comes from the way that you treat it,” said the chairman of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
“I think that you would treat a cloned dog, particularly if you had spent $100,000, differently, so the dog would be different. I am sufficiently sceptical that I personally would not have a dog cloned.”
Elaine Pendlebury, veterinary surgeon for the PDSA charity, said it believed cloning was “not an appropriate way” to deal with the loss of a pet.
She said: “It is important to remember that manipulating identical DNA does not lead to an identical pet.”
Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said: “Apart from similarity in outward appearance, you would have about as much chance of replicating your favourite pet by choosing one from Battersea Dog’s home as you would from cloning it.
“And the former is likely to be loved more as it will not fail your expectations.”
Despite advances in the cloning process, animal welfare groups say the risks, including a range of deformities, are still too high to recommend it.