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Advances in equine cloning may aid insight into human diseases

SEATTLE, WA On May 4, 2003, scientists cloned the first mule, an animal otherwise unable to reproduce, using a cell from a mule fetus and an egg from a horse. Today at the 2004 AAAS (Triple-A-S) Annual Meeting, researcher Gordon L. Woods will discuss the relative healthiness of equine clones as opposed to the health of other cloned animals, asserting that "mules bridge the gap of science" since they are usually born sterile. AAAS is the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Since Idaho Gem, the research team has seen the birth of two other cloned mules in 2003: Utah Pioneer, born June 9, and Idaho Star, born July 27. The project was a joint scientific effort by researchers Drs. Gordon Woods and Dirk Vanderwall of the University of Idaho and Dr. Kenneth White of Utah State University. All three cloned mule foals will be present at the exhibit hall in the Seattle Convention Center on Sunday, 15 February starting at noon.

While researchers have cloned a variety of other animals, they had been unable to clone horses or their "equine" relatives until Idaho Gem. The research promised potential insights into cloning other species that have difficulty reproducing on their own, including many endangered species. Mules are created by breeding a male donkey with a female horse, producing an animal with 63 chromosomes. (Donkeys have 62 and horses have 64.)

With the successful birth of Idaho Gem, Gordon Woods and colleagues found that increasing the calcium concentrations in the media containing the oocytes -- cells from which an egg or ovum develops by meiosis -- in the cloned embryos may have contributed to the success of their cloning efforts. The authors implanted 305 oocytes in surrogate mares. Each of the three mule clones resulted from embryos exposed to higher calcium concentrations.

Consequently, the successful birth and development of these foals offered new opportunities to explore an alternate method of calcium r
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Contact: Monica Amarelo
mamarelo@aaas.org
206-774-6330
American Association for the Advancement of Science
15-Feb-2004


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