Nearly four decades after the first ever test tube human baby, Louise Brown, was born, the same procedure (scientifically termed in vitro fertilization) was used to conceive the first test tube puppies. According to NBC News, the world’s first litter of test tube puppies has been born at Cornell University’s veterinary college. While the first test tube puppies were born back in July this year, the University has only now made the announcement official. According to the Associated Press, researchers at the University had created 19 embryos from the eggs of a female dog the sperm of a male dog before transferring them to a female dog, which eventually gave birth to a litter of seven puppies.
All the puppies were born in July this year and genetic testing confirmed that two puppies are from a beagle mother and a cocker spaniel father. The five remaining puppies have been confirmed to be two pairings of beagle fathers and mothers.
While it might sound ludicrous for researchers and veterinarians to have taken 37 years since the birth of the first human test tube baby to deliver the first test tube puppy, it turns out that research on test tube puppies and in vitro fertilization attempts on dogs have been tried several times in the past – only to end up in failure. In fact, the earliest attempts of in vitro fertilization on dogs dates back to the mid 70’s – at around the same time the procedure was being pioneered on humans.
According to experts, there were several reasons for IVF to fail on dogs. The primary cause being the female dog’s reproductive cycle, which differs completely from humans. It took well over 35 years for researchers to finally perfect a procedure that they now know works. Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, talked about the difference.
“The biology of the dog is really, really different than humans. Dog pregnancies last only two months and females go into heat just once or twice a year, releasing immature eggs instead of mature eggs needed for IVF.”
Dr. Comizzoli is a reproductive physiologist.
Meanwhile, back in July, the team of veterinarians, scientists, and lab workers gathered around the impregnated female dog and watched her become the world’s first surrogate momma dog. In all, she gave birth to seven puppies, which weighed half pounds each. The doctors were thrilled to see the world’s first test tube puppies and were excited. According to Dr. Alexander Travis from the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, it was an incredible moment for everyone involved in the project.
“We each took a puppy and rubbed it with a little towel and when it started to squiggle and cry, we knew we had success. Their eyes were closed. They were just adorable, cute, with smooshed-in faces. We checked them to make sure they looked normal and were all breathing,” he added.
The puppies have since then grown up normally and are now 5-months-old. In fact, six of them have already been adopted – two of them by Travis himself. One female puppy, however, remains with the lab where they plan to have her own litter of puppies in the future.
While the six test tube puppies are the first of their kind, back in 2013, a previous experiment – also conducted at Cornell University, had ended up in the birth of Klondike, the first puppy born from a frozen embryo.
If you are wondering what the purpose of this method to “create” puppies in the first place is, here is what Jennifer Nagashima of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute had to say. According to Jennifer, this technology could in the future help conserve endangered species and could also be used to remove “deleterious traits from breeds.” Several dog species like the red wolf, the African painted dog, and the Ethiopian wolf are all facing an extinction crisis. The procedure could also help in identifying and curing several diseases that affect dogs.
[Images Via Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine]