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This Cat Has 18 Lives

Texas researchers announce the birth of the world’s first cloned cat, a victory, above all, for the wealthy couple who paid them to find a way to clone their aging dog.

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Cc, the first-ever cloned cat, with Allie, her surrogate mother

Backed by millions of dollars from a wealthy couple in love with their dying pet, Texas researchers announced on Friday that they had produced the world’s first cloned cat.

The two-month old kitten, "cc", short for carbon copy, was born Dec. 22, 2001 at Texas A&M University. She joins a list of hundreds of animals to be cloned since Dolly the sheep made her appearance in 1997.

The result was a triumph for the wealthy, and anonymous, couple that founded Genetic Savings and Clone, a firm grounded with the main goal of cloning their aging, but beloved, dog "Missy."

The couple shelled out $2.3 million in 1998 to fund the researchers, who work jointly for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Texas A&M University, and Bio Arts and Research Corporation. Less than four years later, they celebrated their first triumph.

"CC shows every sign of being a perfectly healthy and normal kitten," they wrote on their web site.

Hit and Missy

But not everyone thinks it's a good idea.

"What is the compelling social purpose behind this experimental practice?" Wayne Pacelle senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States told Reuters.

Plenty, say Missy’s owners.

"In addition to cloning a really great mutt, this project also has more socially-beneficial goals, and is strongly ethics-driven," write the people who make up the Missyplicity Project.

Among the goals are an effort to improve canine and feline contraception methods and to provide the opportunity to clone worthy animals, such as guide and search and rescue dogs.

One in 87 chance of survival

But that might be a ways off.

The researchers said that they could not quite gauge the efficiency of cat-cloning. Exactly 87 cloned embryos were transferred into eight female recipients. Of the two who got pregnant, one failed, wrote the researchers in the most recent edition of the science journal Nature.

"This is comparable to the success rates obtained for other clone species," wrote the researchers. "On the other hand ... it remains to be investigated whether this cloning efficiency is reproducible in cats."

There is also recent evidence that shows cloned animals might not last long. The first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, has already developed arthritis at the age of 5. Japanese scientists revealed a few days ago that 10 of the 12 mice they cloned died young.

The results prove that cloning is still a questionable science.

Missy, it seems, will have to wait for now.

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