Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

I recently came upon a documentary about Sooam Biotech.

Sooam is a research facility owned by Professor Hwang Woo-Suk. They specialise in cloning dogs. The cost for cloning one dog cost at least $100,000. Sooam has successfully delivered more than 200 cloned puppies and the pregnancy rate increased from below 2% to 40%.

“Sooam Biotech Research Foundation is able to prolong the companionship of your dog by bringing back the memories you have with your friend. Cloning technology at Sooam is possible for any dog no matter it’s age, size and breed. Sooam not only provides dog-cloning research, but we also heal the broken hearts.” 

With this opener, it is understandable for people to want to clone their dogs. However, the process of dog-cloning is cruel.

The Cloning Process

Phase I: Collecting samples

For your dog to be cloned, it needs to be either alive or dead for less than 5 days. Instructions on keeping your dead dog “clone-ready” is on their website. It has specific instructions not to put the cadaver inside a freezer, instead wrap its full body with wet bathing towels and put in the fridge to keep cool. This is because in order for the cloning process to work, live skin cells need to be extracted.

Sooam also requires you to take your dog to the vet for a biopsy sample. Again, very specific instructions are given.

  1. Your pet will be given anaesthesia and the biopsy sample should be obtain from the furthest point where the anaesthesia is given.
  2. The biopsy area MUST be shaved and cleansed with a series of betadine, chlorhexidine, and alcohol swabs.
  3. 3-4 refrigerated vials are needed for pre-mortem biopsy. The vials should be taken out no longer than half an hour prior to the biopsy. One bag of Parafilm Sealing Tape strips should be one standby for use after samples are placed in the vials. If your dog is alive, 2 biopsy samples per vial around 8mm of the epidermal tissue is required. If your dog is dead, 3-4 samples per vial along with muscle tissue in a separate vial should be provided.
  4. Place vials into a refrigerator with temperatures constant between 2 degrees and 5 degrees until they are ready for shipment.

Phase II: Extracting the cells

The sample is first sterilised and cut into smaller pieces which are then treated with a reagent and chemical dissociate, separating the cells from the tissue. The sample is then placed in a centrifuge which allow scientist to collect the cells and transfer them into a growth medium. 1-2 weeks later, Sooam has the cells necessary for the cloning process.

Phase III: Fertilising the egg

Sooam rents 2 dogs; an egg donor and a surrogate mother, from an animal laboratory provider.

The doctors take the egg donor dog into the operating theatre, sedate her, slice her open, pull out her ovaries, and collect her eggs.

The scientist put the extracted eggs under a microscope and uses a pipette to extract the nucleus. Sooam removes the DNA from the eggs to create genetically empty eggs so that the breed of the egg donor dog won’t matter since non of its DNA will be passed on to the cloned puppy. Scientists then inject the cells taken from the biopsy sample of the original dog into the empty eggs.

Sperm is a necessary component for reproduction. However, in this cloning process, the sperm is replaced by the cells from the original dog and a series of short electrical shocks using a machine called the “Electro Cell Manipulator”. The shocks infuse and activate the membranes of the egg and cell, creating a fertilised embryo. After just 1 minute, Sooam is provided with one whole batch of cloned embryos to work with.

Phase IV: Experimented pregnancy

The doctors take the surrogate, sedate her, slice her open, pull out her ovaries and uterus, and inject up to 15 cloned embryos into her uterus. 30 days later, Sooam is then able to verify the surrogate’s pregnancy, which has about 40% success rate. If the procedure fails, they’ll examine what went wrong and repeat the process using a different surrogate mother. When a successful pregnancy is confirmed, it takes about 30 days for the surrogate mother to give birth.

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The cloned puppy will have the same physical attributes as your original dog. However, the behaviour of the puppy varies on the environment it is being brought up in. The cloned puppy, though physically alike, would not behave like your original dog would.

Why is this process so unethical?

  1. It is an unnatural process

God designed the natural process of life as it is- dogs have shorter life expectancy than humans. When a life ends, it ends. That is the beauty and simplicity of life. It is also what makes life and time spent with loved ones so special. By artificially cloning a dead or soon-to-be dead animal and bringing what once was lost “back to life” is a very unsettling and disturbing thought. The process does not even require a sperm which is essential in reproduction. It defies all requirements of a natural birth. The natural order of a life should not be altered with. Humans should not try to be gods and create life artificially. The whole fall of creation happened because Adam and Eve wanted to be god and look how that turned out.

2. It is cruel to dogs

Putting these poor dogs in misery by using them as guinea pigs in their experiment, slicing them open, extracting what they need and leave them to heal. Once a dog is used for this process, they will be useless to the scientist. If the dog fails to carry out the pregnancy, they are replaced with another experimental dog. These poor dogs are being put under the knife and given sedatives which should not be done considering the dogs they use are perfectly healthy. There is always risk when it comes to surgeries and anaesthesia and they are putting these dogs under unnecessary risks and complications. Even the cloned puppies are a tragedy. They are artificially made to serve a purpose which is to be an exact replacement of the owner’s original dog. It’s sad, really.

3. It fabricates happiness

One will always hope to have the exact same dog and re-live the memories they had together. However, I believe that cloning your dog would just bring about more misery. With the physical attributes being similar to your original dog, expectations will rise and you would be disappointed and even frustrated when your cloned dog does not behave the way your original dog would. It has been stated that dogs may not behave the same way, though they are very similar. But as far as physical appearance go, science and technology cannot recreate the dog you once had. Your happiness with this new cloned dog will be short-lived once the realisation that this is not your dog hits you and having the cloned dog will just be a torture to both you and the dog.

“18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”  (2 Cor 4:18) (NLT)

The process itself is already unethical but given that its founder is Professor Hwang Woo-Suk, makes it all the more dubious and unsound.

Background of Professor Hwang Woo-Suk

Professor Hwang Woo-Suk was labelled a national “hero” when it was reported that he submitted a ground-breaking report with his findings of creating 11 patient-specific stem cells lines which would be a significant step towards human embryonic stem cell research. It entailed the possibility of therapeutic cloning. 

“Therapeutic cloning holds great promise as a medical therapy, since the patient’s immune system probably will not reject embryonic stem cells, since these cells are genetically compatible with the patient’s own cells.” (US National Library of Medicine)

His success was short-lived when news that many of his data on the Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) Scan was fabricated. It was found that the egg donors were paid for his research were paid and two lab members provided the oocytes, forcing Professor Hwang to admit to the allegations of unethical practices. Investigation also revealed that many of the women who donated their eggs were not given proper consent and information. It was found that 75% of the women were given cash or financial incentives, and one of the two junior lab members who was an egg donor, was reluctant and escorted to the donor clinic by Professor Hwang himself. 

In his paper, duplicates of four microscopic photographs were found that reported different embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines.

“The conclusions were clear.20 The claim of being the first laboratory to create a pluripotent human ESC line through SCNT was reported to be false. Verification of the DNA fingerprints of cell lines, teratomas and donors showed that the NT-1 cell line was not derived from the designated donor. Second, no evidence was found to verify the conclusions of the report of the 11 ESC lines in the paper of 2005. The claims were based on material obtained from two ESC cell lines derived by IVF rather than SCNT. Displayed results of DNA fingerprinting, karyotyping, data of MHC-HLA isotyping and photographs of teratoma and embryoid bodies were all fabricated.” (US National Library of Medicine) 

Professor Hwang rose from this catastrophe by successfully creating a legal, verified dog clone. This boosted Professor Hwang’s reputation and he now runs a successful research company, Sooam Biotech.

What can we learn from this?

It doesn’t matter if in the past you had a scandal, people only care about now. Apparently performing experiments on humans aren’t right but performing experiments on dogs suddenly becomes a norm.

This whole thing is backward and screwed up and this world is slowly consuming us. But no matter the negative response I get, I refuse to submit to ideologies and practices that I don’t agree with and I hope this articles provides some awareness on this topic of animal cruelty and successful yet unethical practices.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Rom 12:2