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South Korean scientists announced yesterday that they had created the world's first cloned dog - an Afghan hound called Snuppy - by the same somatic nuclear cell transfer method used to brew up Dolly the sheep.

Lead boffin Woo-Suk Hwang of Seoul National University told a press conference: "Our research goal is to produce cloned dogs for [studying] the disease models, not only for humans, but also for animals." Although Hwang's team admitted they chose the Afghan for its "size and striking appearance", they stressed in a statement: "The purpose of this research is to produce research animals, not domestic pets."

Snuppy ("Seoul National University puppy") was concocted from adult skin cells taken from the aforementioned Afghan hound, Reuters reports. The team transferred 1,095 into 123 surrogates resulting in just two successful live caesarean births.

Of the two puppies, one named "NT-2" died of pneumonia 22 days after birth, although it was anatomically normal. Snuppy was delivered on 24 April from a yellow Labrador surrogate.

The Seoul team's press release also, rather confusingly, says that "the difficulty in producing dog clones underscores the importance of responsible regulation of this vital science," - a reference to the ongoing controversy over cloning.

Back in March, the UN issued a non-binding ban on all forms of cloning, including "therapeutic cloning" where (human) embryos are created for cell harvest and then discarded. Many countries including the UK have ignored the ban, but have stressed that under no circumstances will they allow cloning of a human being. ®

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Michael J. Fox makes stem cell plea
Spain greenlights therapeutic cloning
Bush pledges to veto stem cell bill
Scientists hail stem cell breakthrough
UN approves human cloning ban
Britain talks tough on stem cell research

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