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IVF foal important for industry

(Jun 5) He has no name, and the most unusual of parents. The young chestnut colt, second horse -- a chestnut colt -- born at the Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital in Shepparton on May 5, is only the second horse in the world to be born as a result of taking a single frozen sperm and injecting it into a female egg.

Dr Angus McKinnon, the hospital veterinarian behind the birth, believes the foal is destined to change the face of horse-breeding in Australia and internationally.

"You might think that the second foal born using this technique is not as important as the first," he said.

"Not so! He is more important because he is living proof that the first one was not luck. For a technique to be of use to the breeding industry, it must be repeatable."

Researchers who had helped generate the birth were appealing to young horse lovers and budding medical scientists to come up with a name for the foal, who has three white feet and a star, a stripe and a snip on his nose.

The first foal created using the sperm injection technique was born at the same hospital on March 9 and was named Art, an acronym referring to his origins -- Assisted Reproductive Techniques.

Dr McKinnon said the technique would have great implications for horse racing, where it would be possible to freeze the sperm of legendary horses.

He said while it was currently outside racing industry rules to create super horses through IVF, this was likely to be successfully challenged in the future.

The technique will also be used to help preserve various endangered animals including the rhinoceros and various species of kangaroos, wallabies and wombats.

"This foal is proof that the technique developed by the hospital and Monash (University) can be performed on infertile or endangered animals anywhere in the world where medical scientists have the equipment and the skill," Dr McKinnon said.



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