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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

9/11 hero dog 'to be cloned'

Trakr, a dog that sniffed out survivors from under the rubble of the World Trade Centre after the September 11 terror attacks, may be cloned.


AP
James Symington and his German shepherd, Trakr, searching through rubble at the World Trade Centre

The German shepherd, who lives with his owner, James Symington, in Los Angeles, was picked by BioArts International, a Californian cloning firm, as the most "clone-worthy" canine in a competition offering an owner a free chance to replicate their pet.

Mr Symington said he and Trakr were among the first search and rescue teams to arrive at the New York site after the attacks, and were responsible for locating the last human survivor under about 30 feet of debris.

Now aged 15, the dog no longer has use of his back legs due to a degenerative neurological disorder.

Trakr, a German shepherd with his owner James Symington
AFP/GETTY
Trakr, with his owner James Symington

According to BioArts, experts believe the condition may be linked to exposure to toxic smoke at the World Trade Centre site. However, some specially-bred species of dogs suffer similar degenerative conditions.

"Trakr means the world to me," Mr Symington said. "To know that part of him is going to live on is just beyond words. It's the greatest gift I've ever received."

In the next month, BioArts said it would transport a sample of Trakr's DNA to the South Korean lab of its partner, the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, and the clone could be ready by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, another South Korean genetic company has announced that the clones of a US woman's beloved former pitbull terrier are due to be born within weeks.

The cloning of Booger, who died in 2006, came months ahead of schedule thanks to technical progress, RNL Bio announced in a statement.

"Three clones of Booger have been conceived in two surrogate mother dogs," the company said. The pups are expected around July 25.

The company originally charged $150,000 (£75,000) to clone Booger for Bernann McKinney, in what it claimed was the world's first commercial cloning.

But it agreed to reduce the price to $50,000 dollars as "a special discount to celebrate the first commercial deal".

"He was my partner, my pal, my friend... we had 10 years together," Mrs McKinney told the Korea Times, recalling her years with Booger.

Booger saved her life by chasing off a ferocious mastiff which bit her severely, she said. He is being re-created using the genetic code found in some of his ear tissue, which has been refrigerated.

The cloning was conducted by a Seoul National University team led by Professor Lee Byeong-Chun.

The team created the world's first cloned dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy, on a non-commercial basis in 2005.

Original here

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