Researchers at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences have achieved another cloning milestone with the successful delivery of a foal using oocytes from a live mare, which they claim to be the first such clone in the world.
Equine reproduction specialist Dr. Katrin Hinrich said in a college press release that her laboratory has been working on the clone for two years.
"We recovered the oocytes from our herd of research mares using the same method used to recover eggs from women for in vitro fertilization," said Dr. Hinrichs, who is a professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology at the college. "We used the oocytes for the cloning process, which made it difficult as we had very few to work with at any one time. During the cloning process, we tested a new technique that has been reported in mice to decrease birthing problems."
The process began with a biopsy of skin cells from a Lippizan stallion, Marc, the horse to be cloned, according to the release. Through the cloning process using oocytes recovered from a live mare, viable embryos were developed and sent to Hartman Equine Reproduction Center, an embryo transfer facility in north Texas that works closely with Hinrichs' laboratory, for transfer into surrogate mares. Minnie, the mare carrying Mouse, stayed in north Texas for approximately 200 days, then was sent to her new home in Florida.
Minnie began to show signs of an early delivery and was taken to the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine for observation and intervention. That's where Mouse arrived and was cared for by a team of neonatal experts.
The delivery of the foal highlights Texas A&M's reputation in the field of equine reproduction.
Hinrichs' laboratory cloned the first foal in North America and the third in the world, with Paris Texas, who arrived in 2005, according to the release. The laboratory has since produced more than a dozen cloned foals.
Currently there are only three laboratories in the world that have reported the successful birth of cloned horses—Texas A&M University, Viagen (a commercial venture based in Austin, Texas), and the laboratory of Dr. Cesare Galli, in Italy, according to the release.