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Can we re-create dead pets?

Your pet may be gone, but perhaps not for long. Paul Asmus, developer of Geneti-Pet, Port Townsend, Wash., has begun cryogenically freezing and storing blood samples of household pets in anticipation of the day when genetic technology may enable deceased animals to be replicated. The genetic engineering process would allow an owner to raise an identical animal, complete with the same physical traits and temperament, all over again. Collectively, genes constitute the full se of chemical "instructions" for creating an animal.

Asmus, who developed the idea from ongoing scientific experiments to save endangered animal species, says his company is being inundated with inquiries from pet owners. "They love the idea." For $75, he sends a kit to the owner, who has a veterinarian withdraw a small amount of blood from the animal that is returned via express mail to Geneti-Pet's laboratory. There, Asmus immerses the plastic vial into a cryogenic cylinder, utilizing liquid nitrogen to freeze the blood to 196[degrees C, where it can be kept indefinitely. For the hope of one day reproducing the pet--Asmus estimates 10 years or less--customers pay an annual fee of $200.

Geneti-Pet will not re-create animals. The company stores their blood until geneticists can find the key to re-creation, which many believe is imminent. "DNA research is heading to where humans will be able to create almost anything once we completely understand the process. And it's literally happening right now. Hardly a day goes by when science doesn't discover another piece of the puzzle."

The big question still is when will geneticists, who already have cloned plants and mice, be able to do the same using blood cells of the family dog or cat? Asmus bases his 10-year projection on the optimistic views of experts he has spoken with nationwide. "One told me, |I can make you as many of the exact same mouse as you want.' There is a tremendous amount of work going on in the laboratory that the public knows nothing about because scientists are keeping quiet about it." He cites ongoing storage of human embryos and bull semen as more widely known examples. Skeptics contend it may never be possible to re-create higher-level animals, but some scientists say the replication is inevitable within a few months to perhaps 40 years. Geneti-Pet offers no guarantees, other than the never-ending march of science and the explosive growth of computer capabilities in genetic research. What Asmus does offer is a ray of hope.

"Our idea is basically this: Your pet is gone, in a sense, but not really. He's not totally gone i still have his blood and his DNA. If we don't save their DNA now, no amount of money will be able to bring them back once the DNA is lost. If scientists are in fact able to create higher life forms through genetic engineering, then we're ready. We've got all the material stored here and ready to go. If it doesn't happen, what is the owner out of--money--but that's the risk you take."
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Title Annotation:cyronics service
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Jun 1, 1994
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