Clones Benefit From Experienced Veterinarians at Birth

The best way to give cloned foals a leg up is to make sure that an experienced veterinary team is present when the mare gives birth, according to a recent study.

Katrin Hinrichs, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, and her colleagues recently reviewed the medical records of cloned foals born between 2005 and 2008. They found that most foals did pretty well: Of 14 foals, 12 developed normally.

"We found that the foals did not suffer from the same problems seen in cloned calves or lambs, that is, they did not have problems with oversize, abnormal placentas or heart, lung, and kidney problems," said Hinrichs of Texas A&M University.

However, about half of the cloned foals had some difficulties at birth, including being weak or having crooked front legs or a large umbilicus. Two foals died, one of pneumonia and one after an anesthetic complication. The problems resolved with veterinary care in the rest of the sick foals, and they developed normally.

Because foals can have problems immediately after birth, Hinrichs said that the birth of cloned foals should be overseen by an experienced medical team that can handle the potential problems.

"The purpose of our lab's work on cloning is to improve the viability of the cloned embryos so that pregnancy loss is less and the foals are all healthy at birth," said Hinrichs. She added that cloning is a very complex and expensive procedure, which is why it is still primarily being done by institutions (only three laboratories have produced cloned foals), but that someday cloning may become more commercially viable.

The study, "Physical and clinicopathologic findings in foals derived by use of somatic cell nuclear transfer: 14 cases (2004-2008)" was published in May 1 issue of Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The abstract is available on PubMed.

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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