They say we all have a doppelgänger out there somewhere. What if there was an industry that allowed you to actively create one for your beloved pet when its natural time of death was nigh? The Sinogene Biotechnology Company in Beijing is not only proposing such a business, but already booking appointments. Debuting “Garlic,” China’s first cloned cat, has generated massive retail and ethical interest for the bioengineering research firm since July 21 when Garlic made his debut.
What’s all the hype about?
Huang Yu, the owner whose original British Shorthair cat died of urinary tract infection, wanted the cat cloned because he felt the animal was deeply special. Sinogene began earnest experimentations in cat cloning in August 2018 and took cells from the original cat to create the embryo for the clone. Garlic was born a mere 66 days after the successful implantation of the embryo into a surrogate mother.
Memories Not Included
While the cloned kitten is expected to have the exact same lifespan as any normal cat, its temperament and demeanor are predictably different. To address this, Sinogene now plans to develop man-machine interface technologies and AI-based programs to attempt to store and pass actual memories from source animals down to their cloned counterparts. At present, Garlic will have to re-meet his owner and build a new relationship from scratch as he does not come equipped with the original cat’s mind.
What’s the price tag?
Sinogene certainly intends to offer full-blown cat cloning services in the very near future. With an estimated 73 million pet owners in China who either own a cat or a dog, the commercial ramifications of this science are huge. With cats occupying so much current cultural headspace (and internet time) the world over, the listed price of 250,000 yuan ($35,400 USD) for a cat clone could represent a robust industry in pet cloning very shortly. Sinogene will also clone your dog for 380,000 yuan ($53,550 USD).
What else can we use this for?
Naturally, the global scientific community, and Sinogene itself, are also looking at bigger-picture issues surrounding the ability to clone in this way. Applying the technique of cellular implantation via interspecies experimentations to save endangered animals is the most impressive use for this technology under scrutiny now.
Though technological boundaries have thus far prevented successful interspecies cloning, and ethical oppositions to notions that this science would one day be used for human cloning are loud and persistent, Chinese researchers at other places, such as the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, continue attempts to inject panda body cells into enucleated eggs from cats.
As endangered animals obviously cannot be utilized for scientific testing, interspecies cloning options here are about broad ethical strokes of a different stripe—the kind simply intended to preserve these creatures for future generations.