Since the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996, many other mammals have been cloned, including cows, cats, mice, pigs, rabbits, and more. One species that researchers were having trouble with was the dog. The challenge of cloning dogs was due to the difficulty of extracting their eggs and dogs’ short breeding window. It wasn’t until April 24, 2005 that the first cloned dog, Snuppy, entered the world.
Snuppy was an Afghan Hound whose birth was facilitated by a team of researchers at South Korea’s Seoul National University. Snuppy’s name is a combination of the acronym for the University “S.N.U.” and the word “puppy”. The birth of Snuppy was so impactful at the time that he was actually named Time Magazine’s “Invention of the Year”.
The research team used ear cells from Tai, a 3-year-old Afghan Hound, and inserted the nucleus (the part of the cell that contains DNA) into egg cells that had their nucleus removed. These embryos, now with the ability to develop into a dog, were planted into surrogate mothers. Of the 1,095 eggs that were extracted and transferred to 123 surrogate mothers, only 3 resulted in pregnancies. One pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and the other two resulted in successful births. Only one of these puppies survived past 2 weeks: Snuppy.
Snuppy’s mere existence was an incredible scientific breakthrough that sparked much praise but also discussion on the ethics of cloning. For example, Robert Klitzman, director of Columbia University’s Masters in Bioethics program, said that the process raised the question of whether humans are “just a mass of cells and biological processes?”. Others called for the immediate illegalization of human clones.
Even after birth, Snuppy continued to contribute to science. In 2008, he was part of the first known successful breeding between cloned canines. His sperm was used to artificially inseminate two cloned females who gave birth to a total of 10 puppies, 9 of which survived. This showed that it was possible to produce viable offspring from cloned dogs. His life ended after 10 years in May of 2015, which was a healthy lifespan for an Afghan Hound. Even after his passing, Snuppy’s cells were used to create 4 successful clones of him in 2017, the first ever clones made of a cloned dog.