The very first in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 1978 redefined human reproduction as we know it. Ever since, countless couples all around the world experience the joy of having their very own children.
Now, Science breaks greater ground after researchers at Cornell University unveiled the very first puppies conceived through a test tube-all seven of them.
"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," said Dr. Alexander Travis, who runs the lab at the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. "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 continued.
The puppies, which are a mix of Labrador and Beagle, were conceived after a scheduled cesarean section last July and researchers who spearheaded the project kept track of the litter by painting their nails.
All six were adopted, save for one female who was kept in the lab to reproduce her own litter. The scientists were more than happy to report that all of the mutts are healthy and happy-just like every other naturally-conceived dog.
The seven puppies are genetically the offspring of two different fathers (one cocker spaniel and one beagle) and three different beagle mothers, all of which carried by one female beagle host.
NPR reports that the team initially transferred 19 embryos into a female host. After trying several times for IVF to work for canines, efforts were to no avail, until now.
"The biology of the dog is really, really different than humans," Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, a reproductive physiologist for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, which works with Cornell reports.
Typically, dog pregnancies last for two months and only go in heat once or twice a year, which releases immature eggs instead of mature eggs needed for IVF. Finally, an earlier experiment paved the way into using mature eggs to make it work. In 2013 at Cornell, Klondike became the very first puppy born from a frozen embryo. Its mother was fertilized using artificial insemination. Afterwards, her embryos were collected, frozen then implanted in Klondike's surrogate mother.
Comizzoli and his team regard the seven puppies "a huge breakthrough."
The paper, which was published Wednesday described the litter as "the first live births from in vitro fertilized embryos in the dog". This groundbreaking study can move further into removing "deleterious traits from breeds," with research potentially applicable to "models for human disease" too.
Earlier this year, reports of dogs being successfully cloned surfaced. In fact, for $100,000, you can have your canine buddy cloned.
Not to be confused with IVF, cloning transfers a dog's existing DNA into a donor egg. On the other hand, IVF creates a new genome through fertilization, so each animal has a unique set of DNA.
It's both scary and fascinating for Science to innovate the way we live. We can only imagine what they come up with next.