Cancer-sniffing dog being cloned in South Korea

A Japanese centre which says it has trained a dog to sniff out human cancer cells is cloning the animal in South Korea, a Seoul bio-technology company and the dog’s owner said on Wednesday.

Cloned foetuses from the black labrador retriever named Marine were last month implanted into a surrogate mother dog, said Ra Jeong-Chan, president of RNL Bio.

“We are going to see the clones around the end of this month,” said Ra.

Marine, who is six-and-half-years old, lost her ability to reproduce when she had her womb removed because of disease.

She is owned by Yuji Satoh, a head trainer at St Sugar Cancer Sniffing Dog Training Centre located at Shirahama in Chiba prefecture.

Satoh said in Japan that experts from Seoul National University, which created the world’s first cloned dog in 2005, had taken some skin samples from Marine and brought them back to South Korea for the project.

“We are making clones of Marine. She is touted as having a world top cancer-sniffing ability. By making her clones, we want to promote studies into cancer-sniffing dogs,” Satoh said.

“It’s the world’s first cloning of a cancer-sniffing dog.”

He and the Korean firm, which is coordinating the project, have agreed to produce two clones and train them at Satoh’s centre.

One will then be brought back to South Korea for study at the university and the other will stay at the centre.

If the project for two pups succeeds, they plan to produce more.

“We want to make more clones of Marine for worldwide distribution” for studies into canine detection of cancer, Satoh said.

Researchers in several countries are investigating whether dogs have the ability to detect lung, breast, prostate and skin cancer at an early and treatable stage.

They believe cancer cells create a scent not present in healthy cells, which can theoretically be picked up by dogs in breath or urine samples.

RNL Bio’s last such project was an order for the world’s first commercial cloning of a pet dog — a request from a US woman to re-create her beloved former pitbull.

The firm said in February it planned to charge $150 000 to clone the pitbull for the California woman, using tissue from her dead pet named Booger.

A Seoul National University team created the world’s first cloned dog in 2005, an Afghan hound named Snuppy.

Team leader Lee Byeong-Chun said last week that Snuppy was expected to become a father this month following the first breeding of cloned canines.

Lee’s team also produced seven clones of drug-sniffing dogs last year at the request of the Korea Customs Service. They are said to be easier to train than ordinary canines. – AFP

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Park Chan Kyong
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