If science fiction stories are to be believed, clones are never perfect copies of the original organism and things can quickly get weird and messy when you start to clone a clone. Since cloning animals in the real world is still a relatively new undertaking, a team of researchers has set out to learn the actual effects of cloning a clone. In this case, the team has made several clones of Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog, and so far the results are pretty positive.

Back in 2005, the world's first cloned dog, and Afghan hound named Snuppy, was born in Seoul. Snuppy ultimately lived to the age of 10, which is a relatively conventional lifespan for its breed. The birth of Snuppy kicked off a wave of pet dog cloning businesses around the world and since then hundreds of dogs have been cloned for upwards of US$100,000 a clone.

The health and lifespan of cloned animals was initially a source of debate, with some scientists suggesting clones would have reduced lifespans. A compelling and convincing study published in 2013 successfully recloned a mouse across 25 generations, concluding that with an effective technique it could potentially be possible to reclone animals indefinitely.

The new study started by taking stem cells from Snuppy back in 2010 when he was five years old. Four "reclones" were ultimately born, with one of the puppies dying a few days after birth. The death of one puppy in the litter was not unusual and the researchers noted such an early neonatal death of one puppy in a litter to be relatively common.

Nine months later the remaining three reclones are currently perfectly healthy. Co-author of the study CheMyong Jay Ko says in an interview with the National Post that the puppies are being closely monitored.

"Almost every aspect of their life will be measured – their disease development, their immune system and growth and metabolism."

The long-term results of this "clone of a clone" study will surely be closely watched by many in the biotech world, but at this stage things look promising.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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