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US woman orders $150k cloned pitbull terrier

'Particularly attached' to dead original

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Korean cloning outfit RNL Bio has taken its first order for a cloned dog - a copy of a deceased pitbull terrier called Booger whose Californian owner was so attached to her mutt she's willing to stump $150,000 for the privilege.

The canine doppelganger will be produced by a team from Seoul National University using tissue taken from Booger's ear before his demise 18 months ago, and subsequently stored by a US biotech company. The scientists are headed by Professor Lee Byeong-chun, who previously worked under the disgraced Hwang Woo-suk.

Although Hwang was turfed out on his ear for falsifying data on human cell cloning, among other offences, the team did manage to produce the world's first cloned dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy, back in 2005.

The team uses the somatic nuclear cell transfer method to brew up its clones, which are delivered by surrogate mothers. Although the technique has a high failure rate, the company's marketing director, Cho Seong-ryul, reckons "out of every four surrogate mother dogs produces puppies".

He added that the cost of a cloned four-legged-friend "may come down to less than $50,000 as cloning is becoming an industry".

And in case you're wondering what would possess someone to stump $150k for a copy of her pet, Booger's owner Bernann McKunney is rather splendidly described as having been "particularly attached to the dog, after it saved her life when another dog attacked her and bit off her arm". ®

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