There’s more to this than initially meets the eye.
Now I am sure that I share with countless others a poor understanding of what IVF is. Here’s a Wikipedia extract:
In vitro fertilization or fertilisation (IVF) is a process by which an egg is fertilised by sperm outside the body: in vitro (“in glass”). The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman’s ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova (egg or eggs) from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a liquid in a laboratory. The fertilised egg (zygote) is cultured for 2–6 days in a growth medium and is then implanted in the same or another woman’s uterus, with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.
Obviously that applies to women.
A quick web search revealed that the IVF procedure is commonly used in livestock. Here’s a graphic example of that (literally):
All of which leads nicely in to the Science Alert story.
These are the world’s first puppies born through IVF
Cutest science ever.
PETER DOCKRILL 11 DEC 2015
The world’s first litter of puppies born through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) represents the culmination of decades of research and has resulted in seven adorable pups called Cannon, Red, Green, Cornelia, Buddy, Kiwi and Ivy le Fleur.
But the achievement goes beyond almost intolerable cuteness. The researchers say successfully breeding puppies via IVF opens the door for saving endangered canid species and using gene-editing techniques to eradicate heritable diseases in dogs.
“Since the mid–1970s, people have been trying to do this in a dog and have been unsuccessful,” said Alex Travis, a reproductive biologist from Cornell University.
To develop the litter of pups, the researchers had to fertilise eggs from donor mothers with sperm from donor fathers in the lab, before transferring the embryos to a host female. 19 embryos were transferred to the host female in total, who gave birth to seven healthy pups.
Two of the pups came from a beagle mother donor and a cocker spaniel father donor, and the other five came from two pairings of beagle mothers and fathers.
The team had to overcome a number of challenges to make the process work. Picking the right time to collect mature eggs from the female oviduct proved difficult, as dogs’ reproductive cycles occur only twice per year typically. The researchers found delaying the egg collection by one day resulted in greater fertilisation than previous attempts.
An additional barrier was preparing the sperm for fertilisation, which is normally performed by the female tract. But the researchers found they could simulate these conditions by adding magnesium to the cell culture. “We made those two changes, and now we achieve success in fertilisation rates at 80 to 90 percent,” said Travis.
The researchers’ IVF process, described in PLOS One, will enable conservationists to store the semen and eggs of endangered canids and also help protect rare dog breeds.
“We can freeze and bank sperm, and use it for artificial insemination,” said Travis. “We can also freeze oocytes, but in the absence of in vitro fertilisation, we couldn’t use them. Now we can use this technique to conserve the genetics of endangered species.”
The IVF process should also lead to better genome-editing techniques in the future. This issue is particularly pertinent in light of the way that humans have bred dogs over many centuries. With the paired selection of mates for desired traits leading to detrimental genetic baggage due to inbreeding, this gives researchers a chance to eliminate diseases that certain breeds are now predisposed to.
“With a combination of gene-editing techniques and IVF, we can potentially prevent genetic disease before it starts,” said Travis.
We don’t always hear a lot about endangered canid species, but here are five candidates that this research will helpfully be able to help sooner rather than later.
If you are like me and rarely follow the links in online stories then let me alert you to the last one. It’s an article in Scientific American that opens, thus:
The 5 Most Endangered Canine Species
By John R. Platt on May 9, 2013
Domesticated dogs are some of the most popular animals on the planet, but their cousins in the wild aren’t always as beloved. For thousands of years humans have persecuted wolves, jackals, dingoes, foxes and other members of the family Canidae, pushing many species into or close to extinction. Here are five of the most endangered canine species and subspecies, three of which only continue to exist because a few people and organizations have taken extraordinary efforts to save them.
I don’t have copyright permission to offer more. So all I will do is to list the names of those five most endangered species:
- The Ethiopian wolf
- The Mexican gray wolf
- The red wolf
- Darwin’s fox
- Island fox
Do go here and read the full article. And let’s not forget that our lovely dogs are not the full canine story.