South Korea to clone sniffer dogs

South Korean scientists are to clone drug-sniffing dogs for the country's customs service in the world's first commercial canine cloning deal.


SEOUL: South Korean scientists are to clone drug-sniffing dogs for the country’s customs service in the world’s first commercial canine cloning deal.

“We signed a memorandum of understanding with a team of researchers at Seoul National University last month to produce cloned drug-sniffing dogs,” a customs spokesman told the AFP news agency on Tuesday. He declined to elaborate on the terms of the contract.

Cloning for security: Hwang Woo-Suk was part of the team that cloned the first dog in 2005. Now, South Korean researchers plan to clone dogs on larger scale for the country's customs service.

Senior researcher Kim Min-Kyu said his team had already obtained somatic cells from drug-sniffing dogs to start cloning them in July or August, with a view to obtaining puppies late this year at the earliest.

“In the near future, we plan to establish an animal cloning centre at Seoul National University to clone precious dogs such as guide dogs or drug-sniffing dogs,” Kim was quoted by the Korea Times as saying. The paper said it was the world’s first attempt to create canine clones commercially.

Anti-terror dogs

Demand for detection dogs able to sniff out drugs and explosives has surged following 2001’s September 11 attacks in the USA.

Kim Min-Kyu played a key role in creating the world’s first cloned dog, an Afghan hound called Snuppy, in 2005 and in producing three other cloned dogs last year.

But the feat was underestimated because of the team’s links to a disgraced stem cell scientist, Hwang Woo-Suk.

Hwang, once hailed as a national hero before a university inquiry ruled his work was fake, is on trial for embezzlement and fake research. He has insisted that he can still prove he created the first cloned human stem cells.

The government has banned Hwang from research using human eggs after his claims that he created the first human stem cells through cloning were ruled bogus in January 2006.

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