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First Posted: Jan 14, 2014
Last Update: Jan 21, 2014

Horse Cloning

by Debora Johnson

Cloning is a hot topic fraught with emotion. Much debate takes place over the cloning of animals and genetic engineering of life of all sorts. This debate also reaches into the plant kingdom, insects, etc. It is the replication and/or reprogramming of our genetic material and comes with a host of dilemmas including social and ethical issues. Cloning has the potential to open many avenues in the medical community such as treating disease and for biomedical research. It could be used to help in the protection of endangered species. Drug production could also benefit from cloning. Cloning and genetic engineering also has far reaches into the agriculture arena. It is certain that cloning will have an impact on the world for generations. What is not known is "how"--positively and/or negatively?

This article addresses specifically the animal cloning of horses although much of the animal cloning techniques presently are the same. What does this mean? Although a really complex area, simply stated, cloning comes down to taking a single cell and turning it into a duplicate of an entire organism. For example: A cell from a specific horse, named "X", would be taken. That cell, through complex processes, would be turned into an exact duplicate of its parent, "X". The DNA is the same. It is important to note, however, when replicating that initial cell there is a degrading of the cell that takes place with each replication. It is much like reproducing a document over and over on a duplicating machine. Each replication is somewhat degraded. In the case of animals, however, other factors also influence the final product such as environment and nurture. Even identical twins, who develop from a single fertilized egg--the same DNA--are not totally (100%) identical.

Types of Cloning

  • Use of embryonic cells
  • Nuclear transfer
  • Use of non-embryonic cells

"The Process of Animal Cloning - Initial attempts at artificially induced Animal Cloning were done using developing embryonic cells. The DNA nucleus was extracted from an embryonic cell and implanted into an unfertilized egg, from which the existing nucleus had already been removed. The process of fertilization was simulated by giving an electric shock or by some chemical treatment method. The cells that developed from this artificially induced union were then implanted into host mothers. The cloned animal that resulted had a genetic make-up exactly identical to the genetic make-up of the original cell." Animal Cloning

Horse Cloning Coming Down The Stretch
Story By J. Israel Balderas/CBS 12

WELLINGTON, Fla. - They are allowed in Olympic competition and polo fields. But cloned horses cannot be registered through the thoroughbred and quarter horse associations. Beyond the expense of bringing an animal to life in a lab - will science change the way we see cloned horses in their various sports? 'All my horses are all taught to like people,' said Scott Swerdlin, President and veterinarian at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Swerdlin has been taken care of horses all of his life. As he puts it, there are 11 of his children always waiting for him at the stables.

'It is very personal,' said Swerdlin, 'they're your family,' and each with a distinct personality. 'She's in the twilight of her career,' said Swerdlin, referring to one of the horses, 'and she's just a sweet mare. But when she gets on the polo field, she is so competitive.'

If Swerdlin wanted to have that identical drive in another horse, the mare could now be cloned, at a cost of around $150,000. 'It's a great opportunity if you miss that particular line of breeding to come back and catch that line of breeding.'

Over the weekend, an Argentine polo player named Adolfo Cambiaso won a championship match in his country riding a cloned horse. But the idea of creating a genetic duplicate creates mixed emotions. Beyond the risks of efficiency, there's the perception of unfair advantage.

The American Quarter Horse Association, involved in a lawsuit over registering cloned horses, says it only accepts horses resulting from the breeding of a mother and a father. 'I don't think the horses are going to be exactly like it,' said Swerdlin. 'I think there's going to be a little bit of variable.' That variable would be personality. Swerdlin breeds horses through embryo transfer, a practice he said is accepted by AQHA, but not the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

While cloning is in its infancy, Swerdlin doesn't believe the practice will change the individual beauty of a horse. 'I think they're more interested in cookies and treats then they are in running around here,' said Swerdlin, as he described the horses' personality. A judge recently ruled that the American Quarter Horse Association is not required to register cloned horse, for now. AQHA is appealing an earlier decision that found the breed body had to do it under state and federal anti-trust laws.

For More Information:

First Cloned Horse Using Oocytes from a Live Mare "First Cloned Horse Using Oocytes from a Live Mare June 14, 2010 - Researchers at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences have achieved another cloning first with the successful delivery of a foal using oocytes from a live mare, the first such clone in the world. The delivery of the foal highlights Texas A&M's long tradition of leading science in equine reproduction, and has been a great experience for the owner of the new foal. ..."

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