Korean Researchers Bring Dogs Cloned From Fat Stem Cells

By Khate on 12:20 AM

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Features: News by Koreantimes

Korean Researchers Bring Dogs Cloned From Fat Stem CellsRNL Bio, a Seoul-based biotech firm, announced the successful cloning of two beagle puppies from stem cells grown from fat cells. / Yonhap

South Korean researchers have cloned dogs from fat cells for the first time, according to Seoul-based biotech firm, RNL Bio, Thursday.

The technique could be used to develop patient-specific stem cell treatment for conditions such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes and degenerative arthritis, company officials said.

The clones have yet to be verified by an independent test, although RNL says it requested Seoul National University's (SNU) forensic lab to perform DNA testing.

Dogs are considered one of the more difficult mammals to clone because of their unpredictable reproductive cycles.

Although Korean scientists have cloned dozens of dogs in past years after SNU's Lee Byeong-cheon revealed Snuppy the Afghan hound in 2005, only a few technological breakthroughs have been made. Asomatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) had been the only successful cloning method.

Using stem cells grown from fat cells offers an easier and more efficient way to genetically reproduce animals, company officials said, and also provides greater possibilities for medical applications.

RNL hopes that its technology will allow them to gain ground in its patent dispute with Start Licensing ― a Texas-based company that holds the license for the technology developed from the cloning of Dolly the sheep. The American firm sued the Korean company for patent infringement last October.

RNL and the California-based Bio Arts, backed by Start, are the world's only two companies involved in commercial dog cloning.

``Scientists have successfully cloned mice or pigs using stem cells in the past, but efficiency has been the problem, as researchers had encountered difficulties in standardizing the process for stem cell growth,'' said Ra Jeong-chan, RNL's chief executive, stressing the ``immense industrial potential'' of stem cell cloning.

The cloning project was part of the company's efforts to develop technologies for induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS), or adult stem cells that are made to act like embryonic ones. IPS cells gain the ability to become any cell in the human body, and perhaps more importantly, eliminate the need to destroy embryos.

In theory, these cells can be used to treat a wide range of diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

``Stem cells derived from human fat tissues are adult stem cells that could be used to develop patient-specific treatments for difficult medical conditions,'' Ra said.

Collaborating with SNL scientists, RNL's research team extracted fat tissues from a beagle last October and derived multipotent stem cells (MSCs) from them. The stem cells were injected into 84 eggs that were carried by five surrogate mothers.

One of the dogs gave birth to two puppies Tuesday.

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