Scientists have been working on this since the disco eraAfter decades of trying to solve this puzzle (since the mid-1970s), teams from the Cornell University and Smithsonian Institution have finally figured out how to make canine in-vitro fertilization (IVF) work. In the photo above are the world's first litter of IVF puppies. So cute!
Researchers at the Cornell laboratory transferred 19 embryos to a host female dog, who gave birth last spring to seven healthy puppies. Genetic testing shows that two are from a beagle mother and a cocker spaniel father, and five from two pairings of beagle fathers and mothers. (source)
But why is this breakthrough important? It's not like there's a shortage of fertile dogs out there...
One potential use for this technique is the preservation of endangered canid species.
“We can freeze and bank sperm, and use it for artificial insemination,” said Alex Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health in Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “We can also freeze oocytes [eggs], but in the absence of in vitro fertilization, we couldn’t use them. Now we can use this technique to conserve the genetics of endangered species.” Thanks to IVF, very rare, almost extinct species, could be born from more common dog species, potentially bringing them back from the brink of disappearance.
This IVF advance could also be useful to help rid dogs of some genetic diseases (and possibly humans, indirectly, since dogs share more than 350 similar heritable disorders and traits with humans, almost twice the number as any other species). For example, Golden Retrievers are more susceptible to lymphoma, a type of cancer, something that could potentially be cured.