11 December 2015

Test Tube Puppies

Seven puppies were born as a result of IVF


A group of scientists led by Alex Travis from Cornell University reported on an experiment on in vitro fertilization of a dog, which ended with the birth of live puppies. Although similar attempts have been made previously for forty years, it was the first time that the experiment was successfully completed. Seven puppies were born.

19 embryos "conceived in vitro" were transferred to the uterus, seven of them were successfully implanted and continued their development. The puppies were born on June 10 by Caesarean section. Two of them are descendants of a female beagle and a male Cocker spaniel, the other five are conceived by sex cells taken from two other pairs of beagles. The born puppies were named Evie, Cannon, Beaker, Buddy, Nelly, Red and Green. Now all of them are already growing up in the families of the scientists who conducted the experiment, except for Nelly, who will live in the laboratory until she herself brings offspring.

During this experiment, biologists managed to overcome a number of dog-specific difficulties that had hindered previous attempts at artificial insemination of dogs. The eggs of dogs mature very rarely, only once or twice a year. They also stand out still immature and must spend 48 to 72 hours in the oviduct for their maturation to be completed. Finally, the eggs of dogs are dark in color due to the large amount of lipids, which makes it difficult to manipulate them under a light microscope. For successful fertilization, the spermatozoa of the dog must experience the chemical effect of the environment in the uterus, which increases their activity (the so-called "capacitation").

Travis and his colleagues were able to fulfill all these conditions. In particular, employees of the Travis laboratory Jennifer Nagashima and Skylar Sylvester found that magnesium ions are able to cause the capacitation of dog spermatozoa in artificial conditions. The final stage of the process was cryopreservation of embryos, which had to wait for the moment when the surrogate mother would be at the right stage of the reproductive cycle. This stage has already been worked out earlier by the same Travis, who in 2013 received a healthy puppy named Klondike from a frozen embryo.

Researchers believe that in vitro fertilization will help preserve rare dog breeds or dog-related species, such as the African hyena dog. Alex Travis also notes that dogs can be used more actively in genetic experiments, which is especially valuable, since about 350 hereditary human diseases are also characteristic of dogs.

An article on in vitro fertilization of dogs was published in the electronic scientific journal PLOS ONE – Nagashima et al., Live Births from Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris) Embryos Produced by In Vitro Fertilization.

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