Have you ever considered cloning your dog? I have. Ruby is so cute and sweet, but she probably won't be around a decade from now. Since I don't know how to find her family and she can't have babies, maybe it's the only way possible to keep a part of her near me forever.
I contacted RNL Biostar, a Maryland-based company that has successfully cloned several dogs already, to find out how exactly it would work. The company's director of strategic planning, Jin Han Hong, broke it down to me as four main steps:
1. The vet obtains small samplings of skin and fat tissue. The tissue samples are placed in separate containers with sterile saline and antibiotics, then shipped in a Styrofoam box with pre-frozen ice bags overnight to RNL's lab in Maryland.
2. RNL does a feasibility check, which takes one to three weeks. Researchers isolate stem cells from the tissue and attempt to culture them into millions of cells. If this works, the living cells are cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees celsius — this allows them to be preserved for shipment overseas or for long periods of time, usually 15+ years.
3. The cryopreserved cells are sent to a cloning facility in Seoul, Korea. There, researchers make embryos using donor cells and enucleated eggs from egg donors. They're zapped with electricity, at which point they begin to divide and grow. The completed embryos are transplanted into surrogate mother dogs.
4. Approximately two months later, the surrogate gives birth to a healthy cloned puppy.
Hong tells me that it will take three to six months from the day the sample is submitted until I receive my Ruby clone. The whole procedure normally costs $150,000 but, he says, "If you can make a commitment for dog cloning within a few weeks, we can offer you great rate."
I'm not really going to clone Ruby — I realize that nothing lasts forever, and that even if I did artificially bring Ruby's physical existence back to life, her spirit may not necessarily follow. There are so many dogs in the world who need homes, and I don't really have $150K to be playing around with like that.
I am curious, however, to find out what would happen if I cloned Ruby now, and then kept the clone as a pet, too, while Ruby is still alive. Would they become best friends? Nemeses? Co-conspirators against human domination? Would the world come to an end?
Advisor is a column about how to juggle technology, relationships, and common sense. Got a story to tell? Email me at lisa [at] boingboing [dot] net.
Published 7:45 am Mon, Nov 23, 2009