After nearly three decades of trying, researchers from New York’s Cornell University have succeeded in making the first puppies via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
IVF is an assisted reproductive technology in which an egg and sperm are combined outside the body and then the embryo is transferred to the uterus. The world’s first IVF or test tube baby— Louise Brown Oldham — was born in 1978. “Since the mid-1970s, people have been trying to do this in a dog and have been unsuccessful,” said Dr Alex Travis, lead researcher from Cornell’s college of veterinary medicine.
Out of 19 embryos implanted in the surrogate mother, seven healthy puppies were born.
The seven pups, who are five months old now, were bred from combinations of pairings. While two puppies are from a beagle mother and a cocker spaniel father, the other five are from twos sets of beagle fathers and mothers. The pups are healthy and naughty as regular puppies.
Before the researchers tasted success, they had to face many hurdles.
They had problems with the stimulation of female canine reproductive tract, and had to ensure that the eggs reached the right stage of maturation. So, the researchers made two changes: canine eggs were left just one extra day in the oviduct and magnesium was added to the cell culture to help mimic conditions inside the female canine reproductive tract.
“We made those two changes, and now we achieve success in fertilization rates at 80 to 90 per cent,” Travis said.
Also, the embryos had to be frozen while the researchers waited for the right moment, which only happens once or twice a year.
The study which was published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE could have major ramifications both for fertility and for wildlife conservationists, according to scientists.
The IVF technique can help in preserving endangered species such as the African wild dog, which are as few as 3,000.
“IVF is also important for the health of our pets because it opens up the possibility that we could identify certain genes that cause disease and then fix those. Instead of trying to cure disease, we can help prevent it from happening in the first place,” Dr Travis said.