The research team includes Gordon Woods, UI professor of animal and veterinary science, Kenneth L. White, Utah State University professor of animal science, and Dirk Vanderwall, UI assistant professor of animal and veterinary science.
The baby mule, Idaho Gem, was born May 4. It is the first clone of a hybrid animal. A mule results from a cross between a female horse, a mare, and a male donkey, a jack. As hybrids, mules are sterile, except in extremely rare cases.
Veterinary examinations of the foal and its surrogate mother showed them to be in good health, Woods said. The foal romped with its surrogate mother during a news conference on the UI campus this morning to announce its birth.
The foal's DNA comes from a fetal cell culture first established in 1998 at the University of Idaho.
As scientifically and commercially significant as their accomplishment is for the horse industry, Woods said he is most excited because the project provides a new animal model, the horse, to advance understanding of human cancer.
Woods believes the breakthrough understanding of cellular biology necessary for horse cloning to proceed may offer new insights into cancer development in humans.
Woods, UI professor of animal and veterinary science, began working on the cloning project in 1998. As director of the Northwest Equine Reproduction Laboratory on the UI Moscow campus, he has spent much of his career studying horse-breeding issues.
Horses present a large challenge to those who would use advanced technology to assist them. Only two "test-tube" horse foals, babies conceived in a test tube, have resulted from in vitro fertilization experiments worldwide.