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Articles / Medicine and Biology

SEOUL (Reuters) - A team of South Korean scientists once led by disgraced stem-cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk said on Monday they had produced three cloned copies of a female Afghan hound.

The same team at Seoul National University last year produced Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog, also an Afghan hound.

"This is being done to advance medical research and it is not yet intended for people to clone their pets," Lee Byung-chun, a veterinary professor at the university and who now heads the team, told Reuters.

Hwang and other members have since left their posts at the university after Hwang's team fabricated data in two papers on human embryonic stem cells that have since been debunked.

Lee and other team members showed off to reporters the identical white and tan puppies, named Bona, Peace and Hope and born in June and July.

"Lee's team plans to utilize the breakthrough in producing cell-treatment drugs as well as apply the technology in preserving animals on the verge of extinction," the government's information service said in a statement.

It said the international veterinary journal Theriogenology had published the findings online.

Dogs are considered among the most difficult mammals to clone because of their reproductive cycle.

Hwang's success at cloning the first dog has been independently verified but he is facing criminal prosecution on charges of fraud and embezzlement related to his team's human embryonic stem cell research.

Lee said his team had used the same technology as before under Hwang but had made it more efficient. Hwang has said that he chose Afghan hounds because of their striking looks.

A total of 1,095 reconstructed embryos were transferred into 123 surrogates to create two living puppies last year -- Snuppy and another dog that died after 22 days from pneumonia.

This time, 167 reconstructed embryos were transferred into 12 surrogate mothers to produce the three living clones, Lee said.

Source: Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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