The use of artificial insemination has become a fairly common practice among dog lovers around the world. But thanks to the work of researchers at Cornell University (USA), for the first time a litter of puppies was born entirely from in vitro fertilization.
The breakthrough, described in a study published by the journal PLoS ONE, opens the door to the conservation of endangered species and the use of technologies in 'editing' to eradicate genetic diseases inherited from both animals and humans. The canines share in fact more than 350 genetic disorders with men, almost double than any other species.
The work has made it possible to obtain 19 embryos, which were transferred to a female who acted as 'guest', giving birth to seven healthy puppies: two from a Beagle mother and a Spaniel Cocker father, five from a couple of Beagle.
"Since the mid-1970s, people have been trying to do this in a dog and have been unsuccessful" said Alex Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology in the Baker Institute for Animal Health in Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine. The first challenge was to collect oocytes from adult female dogs. Researchers have actively investigated the cycle of the animal, selecting the cells in the right stage of ripeness.
The second challenge was to properly treat the male sperm in the laboratory, reproducing what in nature happens inside the female's reproductive canal; the addition of magnesium resulted essential according to experts. This made it possible to "achieve a success rate of 80-90% fertilization" said Travis. “With a combination of gene editing techniques and IVF, we can potentially prevent genetic disease before it starts”.
The final step was to freeze the embryos, which is essential to allow the relocation at the most suitable time of the reproductive cycle of the mother, which in dogs occurs only once or twice a year. "With a combination of gene editing techniques and IVF, we can potentially prevent genetic disease before it starts" Travis said.