April 30, 2008

» More on cloned horses

Prometea and her new son, Pegaso.

The world's first cloned horse has produced a foal.

Prometea, a Haflinger, was unveiled in 2003 as the world's first horse clone.

The Laboratory of Reproductive Technologies in Cremona, which was behind her cloning from skin cells, has now announced that she gave birth on March 17 to a colt named Pegaso.

The pregnancy resulted from a single artificial insemination with sperm from the Haflinger stallion Abendfurst.

Professor Cesare Galli described the arrival of Prometea's foal as the ultimate proof of her normality."

"During these five years Prometea has been in very good health and often at the centre of media attention.

"This achievement is a response to the many questions that always have surrounded Prometea - as well as other clones - and it closes the circle that started at her birth.

"Pegaso confirms, once again, that cloned animals can grow and reproduce normally, giving rise to healthy offspring."

Cloning is still considered controversial, with scientists still exploring potential pitfalls and possible differences in offspring, as well as products produced from cloned animals shoudl they ever enter the food chain.

"For the horse species the birth of Pegaso has a special significance," says Professor Galli, "because several sporting horses are animals that have been castrated at a young age.

"When they become adult and demonstrate to be champion horses, they are unable to reproduce and it is therefore impossible to obtain the next generation - the champion's offspring.

"This is a bitter reality that clashes with the driving principle of animal breeding and selection that is based on the reproduction of superior individuals to pursue genetic improvement of the breed."

Professor Galli says he considers cloning to be simply an assisted reproduction technique.

His laboratory has worked on cattle and pigs, and his work on human embryonic cells landed him in trouble with the Catholic church.

The first equid clone was a mule named Idaho Gem born just before Prometea.

However, as mules are sterile, Prometea was the first equid born that was capable of reproducing.