Using a small DNA sample, ViaGen Pets can clone your furry friend to help ease the loss of your loved one
Pets are one of the greatest sources of joy in the world. Whether you grow up with one or bring one into your world later on in life, the bond between you and your pet is one of deep affection and happiness. Of course, this can mean that, when your cat or dog passes away, the hole that this bereavement leaves in your life can be immeasurable.
Yet while saying goodbye to your furry friend is sadly inevitable, ViaGen Pets is aiming to make that loss somewhat more bearable. “We started cloning dogs and cats in 2015,” explains Marketing Manager Lauren Aston. “Cloning really became known a little over 20 years ago with Dolly the sheep in 1996. The company at that time acquired the exclusive rights to the patent portfolio for the technology used to produce Dolly, and over those 20-plus years we’ve really perfected the technology to where we are today – where it’s more efficient and proven to work more consistently.”
ViaGen Pets and Equine is based in Cedar Park, Texas, where it started cloning horses in 2003, and also offers genetic preservation services. The company now guarantees a genetic twin of your pet that starts by taking a skin sample. Although the technical process is far from simple, the steps are actually surprisingly straightforward.
“We send the client or their veterinarian a kit that contains everything needed to take a DNA sample,” explains Lauren. “Once the samples are sent to us, we culture them over several weeks in our cell culture lab to turn them into millions of cells – and each of those cells contains 100 per cent the DNA of that original pet. The cells can then be frozen – we have clients who had their pet’s cells froze over 20 years ago and have recently cloned cats, dogs and horses successfully with those cell lines.”
The actual cloning process, Lauren explains, is similar to IVF in humans – where you need a surrogate mother that will carry the cloned puppy, kitten or foal to term. “We have our own surrogate horses, dogs and cats,” she says, “so when somebody decides to clone, we take an egg from the same species, extract the DNA from that egg, and we implant one of the cells created during the cell-culture process into the egg, and through our proprietary technology, that begins to form an embryo, which is then transferred into a surrogate for a normal healthy gestation.”
Lauren is keen to point out, however, that while the clone will be genetically identical, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll look exactly the same as the pet with which it shares its DNA. “The client is getting a genetic twin,” she explains, “but let’s say you have an all-white cat with a black spot on the forehead – chances are that spot may shift slightly. As far as personality goes, many of our clients tell us how similar the personalities are to the original, as well as their preferences when it comes to playing, toys, snuggling and whatnot.
“So while you’re not getting the exact same pet with the exact same personality and experiences, a large percentage of our clients tell us that they’re very, very similar,” she concludes, “Given that all of us in the company are pet lovers and pet owners, I can’t tell you how much we enjoy hearing how the services we’re providing offer so much hope and joy to people.”