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Equine cloning's triple play sheds light on calcium, cell signaling, human disease

SEATTLE - The successful cloning of three mules and their excellent health is important to the horse industry, a University of Idaho scientist said Monday at Seattle.

More important is the potential human health aspects of the cloning project. Dr. Gordon Woods, UI professor of animal and veterinary science, said the work aided understanding of calcium's role in cell signaling and possibly in the progression of human disease.

Woods, who directs the Northwest Equine Reproduction Laboratory at UI, said increasing calcium levels in the fluid surrounding cloned equine embryos proved the key to equine cloning.

Woods was scheduled to participate in a Feb. 16 panel discussion, Cloning Controversies: Ethics, Science and Society, during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

The birth of the mule foal Idaho Gem on May 4, 2003, marked the first successful equine cloning. The births June 9 of Utah Pioneer and July 27 of Idaho Star, two more mules cloned from the same fetal mule skin cell line, added to the success of the University of Idaho-Utah State University project.

All three mule foals were born unassisted after prototypical pregnancies. All three are vigorous, healthy and developing normally. The triplets were displayed in Seattle during Family Science Day Feb. 15 during the AAAS annual meeting.

"The manipulation of calcium concentrations to achieve success in equine cloning may have implications for other assisted equine reproduction techniques," Woods said. "Increasing intracellular calcium in horses may increase their fertility in general."

Woods began to focus on calcium after becoming interested in why horses appear to be more resistant to some forms of cancer. It is not unusual for light-colored horses to develop melanomas or skin cancers that do not metastasize. Woods found the veterinary literature was devoid of a report of a stallion with prostate cancer. The cancer mortality rate for horses i
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Contact: Gordon Woods
gwoods@uidaho.edu
208-885-6507
University of Idaho
15-Feb-2004


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