A team of Chinese scientists have reportedly used cloning technology to biologically engineer a beagle puppy, Long Long, the world’s first dog cloned from a genetically altered parent.
Long Long was cloned by Lai Liangxue and a team of researchers at Sino Gene and born in May. Long Long’s father, Apple, was genetically engineered in the same lab for the team to study atherosclerosis, which occurs when arteries are clogged. The beagle puppy is believed to be the first dog in human history to be cloned from a genetically modified parent, according to a report by the Daily Mail (U.K.).
In 2015, Lai’s team used gene editing to breed beagles without the myostatin gene, the absence of which causes increased muscle, according to a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review. Two of Lai’s beagles, Hercules and Tiangou, were designed to have twice the muscle mass of a normal beagle.
Lai has said his team will be able to genetically engineer “super dogs” that run faster, are stronger or have other desirable characteristics and then use the new technology used to create Long Long to produce entire batches of cloned dogs, which could be used for police forces and hunting.
“With this technology, by selecting a certain gene of the dog, we can breed an animal with more muscles, better sense of smell and stronger running ability, which is good for hunting and police applications,” Lai told China Plus on July 6.
David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, told the Sunday Express (U.K.) he’s concerned this development could eventually lead to the genetic engineering of humans.
“It’s true that the more and more animals that are genetically engineered using these techniques brings us closer to the possibility of genetic engineering of humans,” King said.
It’s unclear whether humans have ever been cloned. According to a report by U.S. News and World Report, South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk said he successfully cloned a human embryo in 2004 at Seoul National University, but he later was forced to officially retract those published claims after an investigation found no evidence of his alleged success.
Hwang lost his position at SNU, but he went on to create the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which charges people $100,000 to clone dogs and has partnered with Chinese scientists at Boyalife Group to produce primate clones.