Snuppy’s Birthday Reveals Different World After Stem Cell Research Fraud

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 24, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Snuppy’s Birthday Reveals Different World After Stem Cell Research Fraud Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 24, 2006

Seoul, South Korea ( — Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, marked its first birthday on Monday, but the celebration was significantly toned down compared to the euphoria that surrounded its birth. Following on the heels of an international embryonic stem cell research scandal, the scientists who wrote the paper on Snuppy didn’t attend and only a handful of reporters showed up.

The Afghan hound, who name combines the word puppy and the moniker of the college where the scientists created him, became embroiled in controversy after the scandal erupted.

Officials at Seoul National University eventually determined his creation was authentic, but it was the only achievement produced by Hwang Woo-suk’s research team. Claims that they cloned a human embryo and created patient-specific embryonic stem cells that would overcome immune system rejection issues were fraudulent.

According to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, Snuppy weighs about 63 pounds and feasted on an ice cream cake and doggy treats as he was paraded before the press.

However, the hoopla that surrounded his birth was nowhere to be found Monday at his birthday party. Hundreds of reporters gathered last year for the press conference but only a dozen showed up for the birthday party.

Because of the scandal, a plan to proceed with the cloning of a female dog for Snuppy to mate with has been scrapped.

Prof. Kim Min-kyu said the cloning team now lacks the funds to move forward, but it may work with scientists in the United States to progress further.

“The University of Minnesota … offered to join hands in carrying out research to treat dogs, which shows that our technological superiority is recognized in the world,” Kim told the Seoul newspaper.

Meanwhile, Lee Byeong-chun, the lead author of the paper published in the journal Nature about Snuppy’s birth and a former SNU professor, was not on hand. He is one of several professors the university suspended over the faked embryonic stem cell research and only watched from a window in a nearby laboratory.

Lee discussed his life following the suspension and said he and former colleagues are trying to engage in some research to re-establish their credentials and reputations.

“As far as I know, researchers are doing the minimum research to prevent their capabilities from being reduced,” Lee told the Chosun Ilbo. “If we can produce good results later on, we may be able to ask for support, but we’re not in a position to do that now”

Hwang also did not attend, the paper reported.

Snuppy wasn’t a complete success when his creation was announced.

Nearly 1,100 dog embryos were created and transferred to 123 surrogate female dogs. Ultimately, only three pregnancies resulted, according to Hwang, with one dying as a result of a miscarriage and another dying 22 days after birth from pneumonia.

That alarms pro-life groups who say similar results in human cloning would result in the deaths of tens of thousands of unborn children in failed attempts to clone a human being.

Some other animals have been cloned, with mixed results. Most notably, British researchers cloned Dolly the sheep, the first mammal ever cloned. Hundreds of unborn sheep died in the attempts and Dolly eventually had to be euthanized because of problems stemming from the cloning process.