Cloning – You can’t always get what you want

19 Apr

Once upon a time, there was a millionaire that had a very old dog named Missy.  This millionaire loved Missy enough that he was willing to give money to scientists to make a copy of her. He started a project called Missyplicity in 1997 to fund research that would result in a clone of his beloved dog.  Missy died in 2002, but three successful clones were made of her in 2007 by the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea.  According to reports, the clones of Missy look very much like her.

It took ten years to clone Missy and eight years to clone a dog successfully.  The project started at Texas A&M University.  It is not as strange a marriage as you might think.  In the minds of many scientists, cloning is the logical next step from controlled interbreeding.  Instead of breeding for the traits you want, you can clone the animal or plant you have that already has them.

Cloning a dog was more difficult than they thought, so to try and work out the kinks Texas A&M decided to try to clone a cat first.  Late in 2001, Texas A&M managed to clone a cat named Rainbow.  The clone, named CopyCat (CC for short), was the only one of 87 embryos that survived to term.

A University of California at Davis geneticist confirmed that CC is a clone of Rainbow.  Really, I promise the cat on the right is genetically identical to the cat on the left.  So why do they look so different?

It all has to do with how the coat color in cats is expressed, specifically the orange color in a cat’s coat.  The orange color gene ( referred to as O) is a sex-linked trait.  That means that the gene for orange color is on the x chromosome.  Females have two X chromosomes and male have an X chromosome and a shorter Y chromosome.  This is the reason that the overwhelming majority of calico cats are female.  (You do occasionally see male cats that are XXY, but I can already see that Bika is falling asleep, so I will skip that whole tangent)  A calico female cat has a genotype of Oo, that is it has a dominant gene for orange color and recessive gene for no orange color.

Now, basic genetics might lead you to think that an Oo cat would mean that it would be orange.  Since O is dominant, meaning that all things being equal, that trait drowns out anything else.  When it comes to coat color in cats, however, not all things are equal.  The activation or expression of genetic traits can vary.  In Calico cats, each cell either has an expressed dominant O or unexpressed.  This expression or lack of expression is believed to be influence by a number factors and is completely random.  And that is why Rainbow and CopyCat are exactly the same genetically but look completely different.

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8 Responses to “Cloning – You can’t always get what you want”

  1. Tami April 20, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    I actually worked for the Missyplicity project while I was at A&M. I met Rainbow once or twice and adopted one of the cats out of the program.

    I wasn’t a scientist or anything – I worked at what we called Housebreak Hotel. The project worked under strict ethics guidelines (and you’ll note that’s the only time I mention “ethics” as I don’t want that to be the focus of the discussion) which stated that a dog could only be in the program for a short time before it was homed.

    These beagles (they were primarily beagles) came to Housebreak Hotel after their stint in the program and we taught them about grass and tv’s and houses and treats and where not to go to the bathroom – and then we adopted them out to folks.

    My grandmother still has the cat we adopted (she didn’t get along with subsequent cats and really wanted to be an only cat). We tell folks that Buttercup (because that was her name) got her ear tattoo after getting drunk in Tijuana and she doesn’t like to talk about it.

    • Itanya Blade April 20, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      I am envious! Even if you weren’t involved in the actual research.

      • Tami April 20, 2011 at 11:39 am #

        I got to see a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff while I was there. I’m really glad I had the job – I learned a lot.

        I hadn’t actually followed up on Missy to find that she’d been cloned, though, so that was interesting news to read!

  2. Verdus April 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Huh, neat. I’m continually amazed at the sort of advances we’ve made in the fields of biology and genetics. I also like stories that have to do with kittehs. 🙂

  3. Fallah April 21, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Missed this post when it went up but cloning has always fascinated me. I did a HS research project about Dolly the Sheep.

    I was shooting for a PhD in plant bio and all my work was genetics/molecular. Cloning genes, genotyping etc. It is fucking hard to clone the thing you actually want to clone, even in plants. And cats with the crazy color genetics, forget it!

    • Itanya Blade May 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

      My BS is in molecular biology with a focus on genetics. Eventually, I will get a PhD, but the husband needs to finish his degree first.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Administrator Dickery Part 216 « Seven Deadly Divas - April 20, 2011

    […] Cloning – You can’t always get what you want […]

  2. For Science and Blogging « Itanya rambles on and on - April 20, 2011

    […] My first post is up at Seven Deadly Divas. […]

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