For years, Chinese scientists have been cloning animals for medical research. But now the practice is expanding to commercial use. Recently, one company in Beijing achieved a first in the field.
As CGTN’s Frances Kuo explains, it’s catering to those who want to fill a deep void in their life.
They say cats have nine lives. But one in China is getting a tenth.
Huang Yu lost his pet cat, Garlic, seven months ago.
“When Garlic died, I was really sad. I couldn’t face it because it was a sudden death, though there were some early warnings,” said Yu. “I also feel guilty. I blamed myself for not taking Garlic to the hospital in time, which led to the death. At the time, I had so many regrets.”
But Garlic has been reincarnated, the first successfully copied cat by Chinese biotech company, Sinogene.
“I’m so excited to see Garlic after such a long time,” said Yu.
“The similarity of personality between cloned pets and original ones are better than their appearance, because the formation of personality is largely related to genetic reasons,” said Mi Jidong, CEO of Sinogene. “The personality may change a little with external factors, like the growth environment, but there are still many similarities.”
Though it’s Sinogene’s first cloned cat, it’s already copied more than 40 pet dogs.
The procedure for a dog costs more than 50-thousand U.S. dollars; for a cat, it’s 35-thousand U.S. dollars.
“Within a few years, the market for pet cloning and related industries in China may be as big as hundreds of millions yuan in China. In addition to cloning, we also do cell preservation and gene testing,” said Mi.
Pet cloning is part of a rapidly growing industry.
One report shows pet-related spending reached more than $23 billion last year.
Sinogene says it’s not just high-earners who are shelling out money.
“Many customers are young people who have just graduated,” said Mi. “They choose to clone their pets and bear the financial burden. It does not have a strong relationship with the income level.”
The practice raises ethical concerns, whether humans have the right to bioengineer living creatures.
Animal and human cloning are still illegal in many countries.
But for Huang Yu, the experience has provided a second chance for Garlic – and himself.
“I don’t know how to describe the feeling!” said Huang Yu.
Xiuchun Tian discusses pet cloning
CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg talks with Xiuchun Tian, Professor of Biotechnology in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Connecticut, about pet cloning in China.