Magazine article Science News

Horse and Mule Clones Cross the Finish Line

Magazine article Science News

Horse and Mule Clones Cross the Finish Line

Article excerpt

Given Funny Cide's thrilling attempt at the Triple Crown and Seabiscuit's reign at the movies, this is arguably the year of the horse. Cloning researchers would agree. Following hard on the hooves of news that a U.S. research team had cloned a mule, an Italian group this week reports the first cloning of a true horse. The female foal, dubbed Prometea, is actually a clone of the mare that gave birth to it.

Artificial reproduction in the equine family is notoriously difficult--there have been just two horse foals created using standard in vitro fertilization techniques--so Prometea's cloning by Italian scientists has drawn praise even from competitors. "They've made a huge advance," says Gordon Woods of the University of Idaho in Moscow.

About 2 months ago, in a Science report online, Woods and his colleagues described how they created a mule, named Idaho Gem, through cloning. Mules, typically the result of breeding a male donkey with a female horse, are usually sterile. Woods' team harvested mature eggs from horse mares and replaced each egg's DNA using a nucleus from a fetal mule cell. Immediately after chemically triggering the eggs to start dividing, the scientists surgically implanted the resulting embryos into the oviducts of horse mares.

Of more than 300 embryos transferred, just 21 lasted as long as 2 weeks. Only three of them went to term; on May 4, Idaho Gem was the first to be born.

Like several other groups, Woods' team has also been racing to clone a horse. In the Aug. 7 Nature, Cesare Galli of the Consortium for Zootechnical Improvement in Cremona, Italy, and his colleagues claim victory by reporting Prometea's birth on May 28. …

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