The first horse born to a mare artificially inseminated with semen sorted to ensure the offspring was female is the latest in a long series of genetic advances pioneered by researchers at Colorado State University.
The birth of "Call Me Madam," a filly conceived after a mare was surgically inseminated with a relatively small amount of sexed sperm and born Aug. 6, was announced today by XY Inc., a company devoted to the commercialization of sexing semen in animals. The Colorado State University Research Foundation is a part-owner of the local firm.
Research, teaching and service in reproductive biology and genetic engineering is centered in the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory (ARBL), part of the Physiology Department at Colorado State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Accomplishments include:
*The birth of the world’s first genetically identical twin foals produced by an embryo that was non-surgically removed, split into two and implanted in two surrogate mothers. "Question" and "Answer" were born 10 days apart in May 1984.
*"Firecracker," in 1996 the first "test-tube" horse to be born in this country using a sperm injection procedure developed by a team involving Ed Squires and George Seidel.
*An insert-artificial insemination technique that in 1995 produced the world’s first calves of predetermined sex using artificial insemination of sexed semen. Developed by researchers led by Seidel in cooperation with the U.S. Agriculture Department and others, the technique is 90 percent accurate.
*Continuing efforts to clone animals from adult cells. Seidel, Squires and ARBL director Gordon Niswender are seeking funding to apply the same techniques to cattle and horsesthat produced "Dolly," the sheep cloned in Scotland, and recent efforts that produced 50 cloned mice in Hawaii.
Starting in 1941, Colorado State began teaching about artificial insemination of dairy cattle and, in 1948, established an artificial insemination service available to Colorado dairy farmers. Research got underway in 1953 on freezing and preserving bovine semen, and a bull semen processing laboratory set up the following year funded research into the reproductive biology of a number of species of animals.
In 1972, an ongoing program on the reproductive physiology of cattle and horses was expanded to include reproductive endocrinology; a research and service program on embryo transfer that began in 1973 was so successful that it ultimately shifted non-surgical embryo recovery and transfer to private farms and ranches. The Preserving Equine Genetics program in 1997 garnered a $1 million gift from the Lucy G. Whittier Foundation to save genetic material of important breeding horses.
Some dozen Colorado State faculty members plus postdoctoral associates, graduate students and technicians work at the ARBL’s Foothills Campus location on embryo transfer, gamete physiology, genetic engineering and reproductive endocrinology.