SEOUL (Reuters) - The loss of Booger the pit bull terrier was almost more than Bernann McKinney could bear.
Now she is happy, minus $50,000 (25,500 pounds) and her house, and owner of five cloned Booger puppies.
“It is a miracle for me because I was able to smile again, laugh again and just feel alive again,” McKinney told a news conference in the South Korea capital to show off the week-old black puppies — all of whose names include the word Booger.
They are the work of the biotech firm RNL Bio, affiliated with the South Korean lab which produced the world’s first cloned dog and is staffed with former associates of disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk.
She sold her house in the United States to raise the $50,000 for RNL scientists to turn skin cells taken from Booger before he died two years ago into embryos carried by two surrogate dogs for two months until giving birth to the puppies last week.
“I had to make sacrifices and I dream of the day, some day when everyone can afford to clone their pet because losing a pet is a terrible, terrible loss to anyone.”
After rescuing him from a shelter 12 years ago, Booger had become an indispensable part of her life, said the 57-year-old Californian.
The lab said it hoped to make its technology more commercial along with its programme to clone sniffer dogs for the Korean customs service.
“As of today, we are at the stage of receiving orders from anywhere in the world,” RNL CEO Ra Jeongchan said.
RNL has said it expected to clone about 100 dogs next year and for the price to drop as technology improves.
Hwang has been on trial for more than two years on charges of breaking the law on research ethics and for misusing state funds and private donations.
RNL’s research staff is made up of scientists who stayed behind when Hwang left the prestigious Seoul National University after his research results were found to be fraudulent.
Dogs are considered one of the more difficult mammals to clone because their reproductive cycle includes difficult-to-predict ovulations.
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and David Fox