Chinese scientists have proudly announced their first cloned puppy — but they purposefully created him with a blood-clotting disorder that could mean early death.
Longlong, a beagle, was cloned by the Beijing-based biotech company Sinogene from Apple, whose genome was edited so it would develop atherosclerosis and scientists could advance the battle against the disease in humans, CNN reported.
"Dogs share the most inheritable diseases with human beings, which makes them the best disease models to study," Feng Chong, technical director at Sinogene, said.
Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ACD) is the leading cause of mortality worldwide and it currently afflicts an estimated 15.8 million Americans.
Researchers at Sinogene said Longlong, born in May, hasn't shown any symptoms of the disorder yet.
Animal rights advocates from PETA decried the gene-editing experiment and say Sinogene's research is "unethical."
"Cloning is not only expensive, but also inherently cruel," said Chi Szuching, a representative of PETA Asia, in a statement obtained by CNN.
"The vast amount of money used to clone could help save millions of cats, dogs and other companion animals who are euthanized at shelters every year because there are not enough homes for them," she added.
Longlong marks the first time scientists combined a somatic cell cloning technology ─ the method used to clone Dolly, the sheep ─ and a gene-editing tool, Feng said.
According to Shi Zhensheng, a researcher and professor at China Agriculture University, 400 out of 900 genetic diseases in dogs closely match those found in humans.
"Gene-edited dogs are very useful for pharmaceutical companies," he said. "The supply falls short of the demand every year."
Longlong was born from a surrogate mother on May 26th from 2-year-old Apple, who was also born in a laboratory and used to research human diseases.
Sinogene has successfully cloned two more puppies from Apple and plans to clone more in the future.
The company’s deputy general manager Zhao Jianping told Shangaiist that Sinogene hopes to clone police dogs and family pets. He said several pet owners have already come forward seeking to clone their beloved dogs.
"We hope to popularize [pet cloning] for the public," he said.
In 2005 South Korea became the first country to ever clone a dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy.