Sshhhhh. I have a brilliant idea on how to make a few dollars. I am sure you have heard of the champion thoroughbred racehorse, Winx. As a quick reminder, she won 33 consecutive races including a world record of 28 consecutive victories in Group One events and won over 26 million dollars in her career. From 43 starts, Winx won 37 times and placed second 3 times.

Well it just so happens that the jockey that rode Winx on 33 occasions comes from the same small town that my wife does. We just need to use that connection and ask that jockey to have a look at one of the prized saddles that he used when he rode Winx. Take a few hairs from that saddle and we have all the genetic material we need to clone Winx. Once we do that, give it a couple of years and we have our next Winx!

African clawed frogs were first successfully cloned in 1958 and on 5 July 1996, the first large mammal was successfully cloned when Dolly the Dorset sheep was born. From that huge breakthrough just 26 years ago, we are now at the point where businesses exist that offer pet cloning services. If you think those perfect puppy eyes deserve to live on for another generation, you can clone your pet dog for just US$50,000. Cats are usually the masters of the household so you may have one that demands you recreate it. Cat cloning can occur for the bargain basement price of only US$35,000. And, most importantly for my money-making scheme, I only need US$85,000 to clone a horse.

Of course there is the age-old argument of nature versus nurture in relation to how identical the cloned animal will be to the first version, with cloning companies themselves saying that twenty-five per cent of an animal’s “personality” comes from its upbringing and surrounding environment so I would have to do some further research on the early life of Winx.

For a technique that was pioneered such a short time ago, the process and success is relatively advanced. A donor egg has its genetic material removed and the cell nucleus from the animal you wish to clone is injected. The egg is then grown in a laboratory before being implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother. Quite amazingly, the surrogate does not reject the foreign DNA that is growing inside her womb.

There are, of course, a number of ethical issues and the entire process is still highly controversial. I am not here to debate the ethics but I do find the technology fascinating. We already have genetic modifications of plants to produce crops better suited to certain environments or to increase yields. Rather than just clone Winx, can I find someone who will tweak the DNA slightly so I produce the physical attributes that made Winx so successful but add in the 6.35kg heart that made Phar Lap such a champion. If you think the ethics on a straight clone are interesting, imagine the commentary on doing some genetic tweaks.

And where to next?

Human cloning?                                      

It has been technically possible to do it for almost a decade but, apart from the ethics, the reality is that we just haven’t figured out a good enough reason to do it. As much as I love my wife, making a baby clone of her and trying to recreate her experience growing up in the seventies seems like an impossible feat. Maybe better to just enjoy her company now!

Tell me who you would like to clone at

Mathew Dickerson

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