The success of canine IVF (in vitro) has huge implications for wildlife conservation, researchers say.
The first litter of puppies born via in vitro fertilization has arrived, and they are downright adorable.
“Since the mid-1970s, people have been trying to do this in a dog and have been unsuccessful,” Alex Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a Wednesday press release.
In vitro fertilization involves fertilizing a mature egg with a sperm in a lab. Once the egg and sperm produce an embryo, that embryo gets transferred into a “host” female.
In this case, Cornell University researchers transferred 19 embryos to the host female dog. She gave birth to seven healthy puppies in July. Two of the puppies were the result of a beagle mother and cocker spaniel father, while the rest had two beagle parents.
Biologists have been struggling to perform successful canine IVF for years, Travis explained to Smithsonian magazine, partially because researchers weren’t taking into account major differences between the reproductive systems of humans and dogs.
The method’s success may prove to be a valuable wildlife conservation tool.
“The reason for doing things like this is that it will lead to the preservation of species that are almost lost,” Dr. Margaret Casal of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine told CBS. She cited “canid types — wolves, foxes — certain sub-species. There are many different types. They may not be facing extinction just yet but some are running into a crisis.”
In combination with gene editing tools, in vitro fertilization could also help eliminate known genetic disorders in purebred domestic dogs, according to Smithsonian.
All of the puppies have been adopted, Cornell spokeswoman Melissa Mae Osgood told The Huffington Post. “In fact, the lead researcher, Alex Travis, has adopted two that his kids absolutely adore,” she said.