ViaGen Pets produces first U.S. cloned puppy

Nubia, a Jack Russel terrier, was cloned from her late genetic twin

Nubia looks like any other Jack Russell terrier at first glance, but it’s a different story at the genetic level. Nubia is a clone—the first such puppy born in the United States.

Her journey began when ViaGen Pets of Austin, Texas, created an embryo by stripping the nucleus from a donor egg and replacing it with a cell from Nubia’s deceased genetic twin. The embryo was then implanted in a surrogate and Nubia was born nine weeks later, the company announced July 22.

One of the hardest jobs for veterinarians is helping clients to say goodbye to their pets, said veterinary consultant Joel Ehrenzweig, DVM.

“Talking to bereaved pet owners about genetic preservation and cloning is a win-win for veterinary practitioners looking to offer compassionate options that soften the finality of pet loss,” he said.

Once the purview of science fiction, cloning animals has been around since Dolly. Universally acknowledged as the first cloned animal, the Scottish sheep came into the world in 1996 and died in 2003.

What began as a novelty, or a Frankenstein-esque experiment as some argue, has become more accepted.

“Like a veterinary Nubia practice, we’re a group of animal lovers who fully understand and share the bond people have with their pets,” said Blake Russell, CEO of ViaGen Pets.

ViaGen Pets reported that it is the only company to offer pet-cloning services “in full compliance with all U.S. regulatory standards and humane pet care practices.”

The company expects demand for the cloning of companion pets to increase. It has cloned kittens for several clients over the past year.

ViaGen services don’t come cheap. Preserving a beloved dog or cat’s DNA through a cryopreserved tissue sample costs $1,600, plus a $150 annual storage fee. Cloning runs $50,000 for dogs and $25,000 for cats.

Veterinary Practice News columnist Alice Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP, supports cloning. “As a veterinary oncologist also focused on palliative care and hospice for dogs and cats, I see how this could become a more accessible opportunity for those who want to have an option for a continuum with a genetically similar pet who they are on the verge of losing,” she said.

Originally published in the September 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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