Snuppy was the world’s first cloned puppy. Born in 2005, the Afghan hound was widely heralded as a scientific marvel. He even made it onto the cover of TIME magazine in the year of his birth. Although he passed away in May 2015, his legacy lives on – quite literally.
South Korean scientists have revealed they have recloned three puppies from the cells of Snuppy “To immortalize the milestone achievement of cloning a dog and to provide the genetic resources for further research,” publishing their methods in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.
Tissues from Snuppy were taken when he was just five years old. The cells from this sample were cultured and plunged into liquid nitrogen, then later inserted into another dog’s egg from which the DNA had been removed. A total of 94 reconstructed early embryos were transferred to the oviducts of seven recipient dogs. Much to the researchers' surprise, three recipients fell pregnant on the same day.
Four puppies were eventually delivered, although one died after just four days. The remaining three are just over a year old, healthy, and, as you can see, very fluffy.
All of the recloning of clones is to answer the question: does the cloning, or the cloning of the clones, or the cloning of recloned clones, have a detrimental effect on the animals' health? Well, the original Snuppy lived to be 10 years old, around the average age for Afghan hounds. The dog he was cloned from, Tai, lived to be 12 years old. Although they both died of different cancers at slightly different ages, this is within the realms of a normal variation.
And the pups are looking pretty good too. “Three healthy reclones of Snuppy are alive, and as with Snuppy we do not anticipate that the reclones will go through an accelerated rate of aging or will be more prone to develop diseases than naturally bred animals,” the researchers wrote.
Before 2005, scientists made incredible progress with the cloning of sheep, mice, cattle, pigs, goats, rabbits, and cats. However, they couldn’t quite get the hang of dogs. In August 1997, a team of geneticists from Texas A&M University launched a $3.7 million dollars project to do so, but it ended in failure. After continued failures by a multitude of scientists, the success of Snuppy's cloning was widely celebrated. But it wasn't without its controversy. Hwang Woo-suk was once the lead scientist on the project. However, he came to be known as the figure at the center of one of the "largest investigations of scientific fraud in living memory" due to his controversial work on cloned human embryos.
Nevertheless, despite the long chapter involving Hwang, the story of Snuppy the puppy was a happy one. Now, these three puppies are continuing to help push our understanding of cloning, dogs, and health. Aww, who's a good clone?!