Couple hopes beloved cat can be cloned

.: Corvallis Gazette-Times :. News

Couple hopes beloved cat can be cloned
By The Associated Press

MEDFORD — A couple who read a magazine article about cloning pets are hoping the technology can be used to create another version of their beloved cat.

“We wanted to be on the forefront of this,” said Mary Ann Daniels, who read about the procedure in Time magazine.

Daniels and her husband, Roland, moved from Costa Mesa, Calif., to Medford last year just before their 20-year-old cat, Smokey, died on Aug. 26.

“We were devastated,” said Daniels, 58, an accountant.

But the couple took comfort from the fact that they’d paid about $1,000 three years earlier to have Smokey’s cells harvested and stored at Genetic Savings and Clone Inc., the Texas-based firm that bills itself as the world’s leading pet cloning company.

“We wanted to be one of the first,” Daniels said.

Smokey, a blue Russian cat with huge green eyes, showed up on the couple’s patio when he was a kitten. The cat and the couple soon became constant companions.

“He followed us from one neighbor to the other,” said Roland Daniels, 63, who repairs electronic organs. “He would wait outside until we came out. He was like a dog. We told him what to do and he did it.”

A 16-pounder with thick gray fur, Smokey had a melodic meow and a distinct personality, his owners said.

“You build up a bond that is like a child,” said Roland Daniels. “You want to have a chance to continue with an animal with the same attitude.”

Because Smokey was neutered as a kitten, he never produced offspring. When he died last year, the Danielses immediately considered regenerating him through the company that produced CC, the world’s first cloned cat, in 2001.

“We were given the opportunity to be among the first nine” pet owners offered the cloning procedure, Mary Ann Daniels said.

The price, which originally topped out at $50,000, had been reduced to $32,000. But the couple said it is still too expensive, so they will wait until the price drops some more.

“I think for sure in about five years,” Mary Ann Daniels said. “By then it may be about $10,000.”

When the cost drops, the Danielses will authorize GSC to use some of the cells swabbed by a veterinarian from the inside of Smokey’s cheek. Using a proprietary procedure called chromatin transfer, specialists will treat Smokey’s cells to remove molecules associated with cell differentiation, according to the GSC Web site.

Then, an intact donor cell will be fused with the treated egg. The hope is that the egg will “reprogram” the donor cell to allow it to develop into an embryo. Implanted into a surrogate mother cat, the embryo ideally will grow normally and be born naturally, producing a newborn kitten genetically identical to Smokey.

The Danielses say they are aware of the scientific and ethical debate over cloning, but they believe it can be put to good use.

“We didn’t think there was anything wrong with it,” Mary Ann Daniels said. “Anything which gives an opportunity that is progressive, I’m in favor of.”

Copyright © 2005 • Lee Enterprises

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