A South Korean firm said Monday it has successfully cloned four dogs capable of sniffing out human cancers by using tissue from a retriever in Japan.
The four black retrievers were born last month from cloned foetuses of Marine, a six-and-a-half-year-old dog trained in Japan to detect cancer patients by smell, RNL Bio said in a statement.
The cloning, requested by the Japanese stemcell company Seems, was conducted by a team led by Seoul National University professor Lee Byeong-Chun and verified by the medical school, it said.
Seems wanted to clone the dogs because Marine could not give birth to siblings following an operation to have her womb removed, it said.
"Thanks to the cloning technology, it (Marine) has been able to preserve its own genes," said a statement on RNL Bio's website.
The cloned retrievers will soon be sent to Japan for training in the same skills as their mother, it said. Two of them will later be sold to clients at 500 million won (480,000 dollars) each or more, it said.
Marine is owned by Yuji Satoh, a head trainer at St. Sugar Cancer Sniffing Dog Training Centre located at Shirahama in Chiba prefecture.
Researchers in several countries are investigating whether dogs have the ability to detect lung, breast, prostate and skin cancer at an early and treatable stage.
They believe cancer cells create a scent not present in healthy cells, which can theoretically be picked up by dogs in breath or urine samples.
RNL Bio is a leader in commercialising cloning in Korea.
It said in February it had taken an order from a US woman to re-create her beloved former pitbull for 150,000 dollars.
Lee was a member of the Seoul National University team that created the world's first cloned dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy, on a non-commercial basis in 2005.
University researchers last summer signed a deal with the customs service to clone drug-sniffing dogs.