Located in Beijing, Sinogene is considered by the Chinese press to be the first company in the country to clone a cat. The company was responsible for copying the young Huang Yu’s pet genes. After the death of his feline friend, the 22-year-old spent $ 35,000 to have a clone of the animal. Seven months later, he met Ajo’s new “version”, which has over 90% of the physical characteristics of the original pet. “It looks more than 90 percent,” said the 23-year-old Chinese, who expects the cat, born in July to a carrier cat, to have the same personality as the original.
Cloning dogs, cats and even monkeys
Ajo is the first cat cloned by Sinogene, a company that since 2017 has cloned more than 40 dogs. In 2018, the same company cloned Juice, a 9-cm-tall, 9-year-old mutt, famous for appearing in hundreds of films and productions in the country. In the case of Juice, skin samples were collected from the dog’s lower abdomen and within a few weeks Sinogene was able to isolate the DNA and fertilize an egg.
The fertilized egg was surgically inserted into the womb of a dog that would be the surrogate ‘mother’ – in this case NTR1917, a beagle. Little Juice was born in mid-September and beagle in Sinogene’s lab for about a month. Also in 2018, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai announced the cloning of monkeys using the same technique as the Dolly sheep.
The primates, two long-tailed monkeys, were bred by nuclear transfer of somatic cells, that is, from the cells of an adult monkey’s tissue.
Because monkeys are primates – a mammalian order that includes monkeys, apes and humans – the experiment was seen as a step toward cloning humans, which opens a discussion about the ethics of the procedure.
According to Mi Jidong CEO, despite the high value of cloning, most of the clients are young graduates, such as Garlic’s owner. “These owners see their pets as part of the family. Animal cloning meets the emotional needs of younger generations, ”the executive told AFP. Huang Yu says the physical similarity between the new and old Garlic is 90%. He also expects their personalities to be similar. But that is not always what happens.
The world’s first cloned cat was CC (a nickname for CopyCat), born in 2001. It was a copy of Rainbow, a tricolor cat. However, CC was born with only two-color coat. This is because coat color is not only defined by genes, but also during pregnancy. Growing up, CC became quite different from Rainbow not only in looks but also in personality.
Cloning as a solution to another problem
Sinogene’s cloning of the cat could be an important step in helping panda’s critical situation in China. Despite being off the list of endangered animals, the species is still quite vulnerable due to recent climate changes. The Chinese Academy of Sciences is conducting studies with the intention of cloning a panda and using a cat as a carrier mother. Both species have similar sizes when young and gestational period that lasts between 2 and 3 months. Despite the fact that this information may cause some strangeness, most Chinese do not see problems in using animals for medical studies or even testing cosmetics. As a reflection of this, the country has no laws against animal cruelty.
The pet market in China
In recent decades the Chinese have fallen in love with domestic animals, which were banned during the period of Mao Zedong’s rule. When they die, the owners of these pets, often traumatized by the loss of their pets, are willing to pay 250,000 yuan ($ 35,000) for cloning a cat or 380,000 ($ 53,000) for a dog. According to a report by Pet Fair Asia and Goumin.com, pet spending last year amounted to 171 billion yuan ($ 23.7 billion).