Next month’s Cat Fanciers’ Association show at Madison Square Garden will feature 40 breeds—from stately Siamese to tailless Manx—vying for Best-in-Show. But no matter who wins, much of the attention will focus on two Bengal kittens, Tabouli and Baba Ganoush, the first cats cloned by chromatin transfer, a safer technique than the one used to create CC, the first cloned cat, and Dolly (R.I.P.) the sheep.
The kittens will be presented by Genetic Savings & Clone, Inc., which offers cloning for $50,000 per cat. CEO Lou Hawthorne says he has a waiting list of hundreds who’ve stored pets’ DNA but are hoping costs will soon come down. “Every once in a while, Mother Nature hits one out of the park and makes an extraordinary animal,” he says.
His own cat, Tahini, provided the DNA for Tabouli and Baba Ganoush. Using chromatin transfer, an adult donor cell is reprogrammed to an embryonic state and fused with an egg whose nucleus has been removed. When she heard about the procedure, CFA president Pam DelaBar invited the kittens to the show. “This technology is going to boom,” she says. Hawthorne hopes so, suggesting that dog cloning could come as early as next year and “life extension” soon after. “There’s no reason it wouldn’t work in humans,” he adds. “But there are a lot of regulatory hurdles.”