“People ask me, ‘Why is it so expensive?’ and I tell them because there are so many complicated steps involved in the whole process,” says Rodriguez. “It’s definitely an emotional reason for pet customers. They want to be able to keep that strong emotional bond they have with the animal.”
The industry has since expanded elsewhere in the world. Sooam Biotech in South Korea offers dog cloning services, as does Sinogene in China.
However, many scientists remain uncomfortable with the whole premise. Lovell-Badge argues that there is “no justification” for cloning pets because even though the resulting animals will be genetically identical, they will not have the same behavioral characteristics and personalities because all creatures are the same. produces both genes and their environment.
“People really want their pet to know them and know certain tricks, etc.,” says George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. “In that sense, it’s kind of taking advantage of people’s grief.”
Reviving extinct species
In the years following Dolly’s cloning, the central question was whether scientists would ever extend the technology to humans, and the many moral and ethical issues that would raise.
But while a human embryo was successfully cloned in 2013, the process of creating a full human was never attempted due to likely public outcry. Chinese scientists cloned the first primates in January 2018, the long-tailed macaques Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, but there are currently no suggestions that this work will continue in other primate species.
Instead, most funds are spent on using cloning to resurrect animals on the verge of extinction. Efforts are underway to clone both the giant panda and the northern white rhino – a species for which only two animals remain on the planet – while for the past two years ViaGen has cloned the black-footed ferret and Przewalski’s horse, which are in danger.
Church leads the most ambitious project, a quest to revive the woolly mammoth, a species that lived around 4,000 years ago. His disextinction company Colossal has already raised £11 million ($14.5 million) to back the idea, which will involve creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid by taking skin cells from Asian elephants and using cloning technology to reprogram them with mammoth DNA.