Miracle Milly, a six-year-old Chihuahua from Puerto Rico, was awarded the title of World’s Most Cloned Dog, by the Guinness Book of Records, after scientists in South Korea created a whopping 49 genetically-identical copies of her.
The controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Seoul, South Korea, has been creating pet clones since 2006, and last year they approached Vanesa Semler, Milly’s owner about the possibility of creating clones of the adorable pooch to try and solve the genetic mystery that made her special. You see, Mily is no ordinary Chihuahua. She’s held the Guinness record for World’s Smallest Living Dog since 2012, and scientists have been wanting to know exactly what made her so tiny. So in August 2017, Sooam researchers started making clones of Miracle Milly, the number of which has currently reached 49.
Photo: Academy of World Records
Sooam uses the same 50-year-old technology that was used to clone Dolly the sheep, in 1996 – nuclear transfer. First, cells are harvested from the animal to be cloned and the nucleus, which contains the genetic information, is removed and preserved. Next an egg cell is obtained from a donor and its nucleus is replaced with that of the pet to be cloned. The modified egg cell is given a weak electric shock to stimulate division, and a few days later the embryo is placed in a surrogate mother, which doesn’t even have to be of the same breed as the pet to be cloned, just of similar size.
The first litter of Miracle Milly clones was born in August of last year. Now all 12 pooches – Molly, Mally, Melly, Molly, Mumu, Mila, Mary, Mimi, Moni, Mini, Mela and Mulan – live with the Semler family, in Kissimmee, Florida and enjoy each other company very much. Vanessa says that Milly and her clones have exactly the same personality and looks, but some of the clones are slightly larger than the original. Since then researchers at Sooam have created 37 other clones of the world’s smallest dog.
“The original idea was to make ten clones in total, nine for research and one for us, but they decided to clone her more times,” Vanessa Semler told Caters News. “She was chosen for being the smallest dog in the world. They want to find out why she was so small and then study her genes to find out what makes her so tiny.”
“The clones all look like her, but they aren’t her, they are slightly different in size,” Milly’s owner added. “They are sweet and loving, but Milly is unique, while they have the same eyes and markings on their coats, in my opinion you could never reproduce her.”
Researchers at Sooam now plan to team up with specialists at the Beijing Genomics Institute to characterise the genetic and epi-genetic factors of the cloned Milly and the original Milly.