According to UI Professor of Animal and Veterinary Science Gordon Woods, leader of the UI-Utah State University team that recently produced the first mule clone, the chemical changes necessary for the successful cloning provide new insight about what influences cell growth and activity. In addition, Woods, who also serves as director of the UI's Northwest Equine Reproduction Laboratory, said the horse provides a novel and effective model for studying cancer metastasis and other age-onset diseases in humans.
"The mortality rate for horses with metastatic cancer is 8 percent for all cancers and 0 percent for prostate cancer. By comparison, the mortality rate in humans is approximately 24 percent for all cancers, of which 13 to 14 percent are for prostate cancer," Woods said. "The contrasts and similarities between humans and horses at the cellular level provide a number of insights about how the relationship of certain chemicals in the body affect both normal and abnormal cell activity."
Calcium more importantly, the relationship between the amount of calcium within each cell and outside each cell is key. Members of the horse family have a lower amount of intracellular calcium than humans and a correspondingly slower rate of cell activity.
Woods said when his team first started its cloning work in 1998, only a very few of the implants resulted in pregnancies, and none of those progressed past the four-week point. Based on new information provided by Cancer2, a private corporation founded by Woods, the scientists agreed part of the problem was the relatively slow rate of cell activity in members of the horse family. Woods noted that the slow rate of cell activity may be why in vitro fertilization doesn't work in horses and may be why the cancer mortality rate a
Contact: Kathy Barnard
University of Idaho