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Tag: reproduction

World’s first in vitro puppies born at Cornell

ivf

Ten years after a dog was first successfully cloned, scientists have managed to produce the world’s first litter of pups to be born through in vitro fertilization.

In July seven puppies were born through IVF at Cornell University — five beagles and two “bockers,” or beagle-cocker spaniel mixes.

The achievement was not revealed until this week with the release of the research study.

Seems like science would have happened the other way around — that a “test-tube” puppy would have premiered long before we entered the even more science fiction-like era of cloned dogs becoming available on the marketplace.

But, while IVF has been used for decades in other animals, including humans, scientists had never succeeded in using it to produce a newborn pup.

Previous attempts to use IVF in dogs had resulted in very low rates of fertilization, and no live births at all once IVF embryos were transferred to a host.

“Since the mid-1970s, people have been trying to do [IVF] in a dog and have been unsuccessful,” said co-author Alex Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health in Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

What made it so difficult were some of the same factors that proved challenging in cloning dogs — females only ovulate once or twice a year, and their eggs are not transparent, making it harder to see the structures inside of the egg.

The Cornell researchers, in a joint project with researchers from the Smithsonian Institution, found that by waiting an extra day for eggs to mature before extracting them, they met with more success.

Adding magnesium to the environment where the sperm and egg met also helped with fertilization, the team found, according to a Cornell press release.

The achievement was revealed this week in a study published online Dec. 9 in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

The seven surviving puppies (out of 19 embryos) are genetically the offspring of two different fathers (a cocker spaniel and a beagle) and three different beagle mothers, carried by the same beagle surrogate.

Unlike cloning, which involves transferring an existing (or dead) dog’s DNA into a donor egg, IVF involves the creation of a new genome through fertilization. Each each animal has a unique set of DNA.

The researchers say the development will open the door for preserving endangered canid species using assisted reproduction techniques.

It could also enable researchers to eradicate heritable diseases in dogs and facilitate the study of genetic diseases in dogs and humans, they say.

(Photo: Cornell graduate student Jennifer Nagashima and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute research biologist Nucharin Songsasen — lead author and co-author of the study — walk some of the puppies born through IVF; by Jeffrey MacMillan / Cornell University)

Some flowers on Mother’s Day


Here’s a mother — or at least an expectant one — who made sure she’d have plenty of flowers on Mother’s Day, building her nest of pine needles under this budding bush.

I came across her Sunday while visiting my own mom, who has a view of the nesting duck from her living room window and reports that’s she’s been dutifully sitting atop her eggs — about ten of them — for weeks now.

It’s baby duck season at Arbor Acres, the retirement community in which my mother lives, where residents eagerly await the appearance of the year’s first ducklings.

Nobody’s sure who the father is, but many suspect it’s the fellow to the left — he of the poofy hairdo —  who is well-known for his amorous behavior and apparently considers himself quite the ladies man.

Then again, if I had hair like that, maybe I would, too.

He is believed to have fathered many of the baby ducks that were born last year, and indications are he’s at it again.

Yesterday, as the nesting mother sat atop her eggs, amid the blooming flowers, it appeared to me — though I’m better at interpreting dog behavior than duck behavior — that poofy head had moved on to new interests.