Researchers at Texas A & M were in the news this week when word leaked that they managed to successfully clone a cat. A number of research efforts are underway to clone cats and dogs, but this was the first such success.
Much of the media coverage focused on the possibility of cloning pets. The Canadian Press quoted Texas A & M researcher Duane Kraemer as claiming that some people have already stored cells from their departed pets in the hope that cloning might one day bring back copies of said pets.
A more important possibility is the role that cloned cats may play in medical research. This possibility brought condemnation from the Humane Society of the United States‘ Wayne Pacelle who described the announcement as “unfortunate news” and told the Canadian Press that researchers should move away from using animals in medical research.
But research in cats has provided important information about a variety of issues related to human physiology, especially about vision. The way cats process vision is very similar to the processes in human beings. In fact, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel won the 1981 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their research in cats and monkeys that completely revolutionized understanding of how vision is processed.
Pacelle and animal rights activists are free to maintain that advances in human knowledge thanks to animal research are “unfortunate,” but they will have to excuse the rest of us for finding this to be incredibly exciting news.
Texas researchers announce successful cloning of a cat; dogs are next. Malcolm Ritter, Canadian Press, February 15, 2002.
More than nine lives for this cat. Antonio Regalado, The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2002.
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