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A&M dog-cloning efforts spark sharp criticism from scientists

Nov. 11, 1998



Will the $2.3 million effort to clone a mixed-breed dog named Missy become the next big Aggie joke? The recent decision by Texas A&M has sparked debate among some Baylor faculty members.

'Research in cloning should be continued. It could be used in advancing our knowledge and reproduction,' said Daniel McGee, a Baylor religion professor who studies bioethics.

Texas A&M researchers Dr. Duane Kraemer, Dr. Mark Westhusin and Dr. Robert Burghardt, along with several individuals and universities, are involved in the two-year project to investigate dog cloning.

Cloning Missy will involve implanting DNA from her tissue into the egg of another dog. The idea is that the embryo will contain only Missy's DNA, Kraemer said.

'The first thing we will tell you is that it's very unlikely you'll get an exact duplicate of the original,' Kraemer said. 'That's not why we are doing this.'

The effort will investigate numerous aspects of canine reproduction, which can lead to improved method for contraception and sterilization and enhance the reproduction of endangered species, Westhusin said.

In honor of Missy, the plan is named the 'Missyplicity Project.'

'The Missyplicity Project will augment and accelerate an extensive research program involving cloning of livestock and the propagation of endangered species already in place,' Westhusin said.

The knowledge gained will also spur people to investigate the possible cloning of their favorite pets, Westhusin believes.

Bob Maida, a dog behavior specialist and trainer in Virginia, warned that it might produce some unintended and unfortunate consequences.

'I have no doubt that they'll be able to clone a dog's body. They may get a dog just like the one they're trying to clone, but they may also get something out of Pet Semetary, you know, that book by Stephen King,' Maida said.

Ben Pierce, a Baylor biology professor, said if the cloning of the dog is for research, he is in favor of it.

'People have already manipulated things and plants for thousands of years,' Pierce said.

McGee said cloning takes place in nature with the 'twinning' process, the process of identical twins being born.

McGee praised A&M's special strengths in the natural sciences. He said cloning Missy would be viewed as an advancement in A&M's capacity to help society.

Joseph Farrow, a Waco resident who has followed the cloning issue, said A&M is very serious about the project since 'the cost of the equipment and technology would be outrageous to attempt cloning for fortune and fame.'

'God would not have given us the abilities to create wonderous things only to be restrained by 'conservative, morally-minded' people from doing them,' Farrow said.

McGee said the task 'is to respond appropriately to these challenges by using our new-found powers in the most responsible way we can.'

Pierce said he is not in favor of human cloning for ethical reasons, a view many scientists hold.

Farrow, on the other hand, is in favor of cloning headless humans since the headless frog and sheep have already been cloned.

'What is immoral about being able to clone an identical human body or body parts for organ transplants? The possibility of a child, or anyone for that fact, never dying again while waiting on a match, waiting for a donor for bone marrow or any organs is coming upon us very soon,' Farrow said.

'I believe it is our responsibility as human beings to insure it happens,' he said.

Some people are opposed to cloning because 'to clone is for humans to take into their hands a power that belongs to God,' McGee said. 'There should be no destruction of humaneness. What is called for is a lot of discussion for the proper use of scientific technology.'

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