Second Cloned Mule Born

The same research team that produced the world's first cloned member of the horse family, a mule, has repeated its success with the birth of “Utah Pioneer” early Monday morning.

Researchers Gordon Woods, DVM, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACT, and Dirk Vanderwall, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, from the University of Idaho and Ken White, PhD, from Utah State University said the male mule foal's birth was natural and unassisted. His surrogate mother is Idaho Rose.

It was also a surprise. "Dirk was there yesterday and looked at the mare. We were pretty sure the foal was still at least a couple of days away," Woods said. Monday morning a little after 5, Utah Pioneer joined his brother, Idaho Gem, as the only equine clones in the world.

Named for the hearty pioneers who crossed the Rockies to settle the Beehive State, Utah Pioneer weighed 78 pounds at birth, and according to Woods, "is healthy and already very active."

The equine cloning team will again submit samples to a University of California Davis laboratory for independent verification as they did with Idaho Gem. Woods said he has no doubt about the outcome: "He's a male mule, and he looks like Idaho Gem. He is what he is."

The UI-Utah State team is the first to succeed among several teams worldwide attempting to clone a member of the horse family. The 2002 preliminary testing showed the method developed by the researchers to successfully clone a mule should work equally as well with a horse, Woods said.

"It basically came down to a matter of numbers, and we wanted to focus most of our attention on cloning a mule, which was our original objective," Vanderwall said.

White is widely recognized as an expert on cattle cloning and brought cloning expertise to the team. Vanderwall, who like Woods, earned doctor of veterinary medicine and Ph.D. degrees, brought extensive clinical expertise to the project.

"From the very beginning this project has been about collaboration and partnership," said Woods, a professor of animal and veterinary science in UI's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "Neither university could have succeeded without the other."

White agreed. "This is an important birth because it provides repeatability to the project and strengthens the results," he said.

"The name of the second animal, Utah Pioneer, underlines the great cooperation between Utah State and University of Idaho and the pioneering impact of these animals on animal agriculture," White added.

The birth of Idaho Gem was announced by Science magazine May 29. Both cloned foals are full siblings of Taz, a champion racing mule owned by Idaho businessman, UI benefactor, and mule enthusiast Don Jacklin of Post Falls. The foals carry identical DNA from a fetal skin cell culture established five years ago at UI with Taz's mother and father.

"The birth of the second equine clone in the world is tremendously important. It validates the repeatability of the University of Idaho-Utah State technology," Jacklin said.

"It also firmly establishes the University of Idaho and the team of scientists as the premier world center for equine cloning," Jacklin said.

The story of Idaho Gem played in news outlets around the world both because the clones were the first born to the horse family and because of their possible significance for future medical research.

Mike Weiss, UI Agricultural and Life Sciences dean, said the project is exciting because of its importance to basic fundamental science and human understanding of life, the industry and possible benefits to other areas of science, including biomedical applications.

"The researchers spoke May 29 about the challenges ahead to apply what we've learned to human disease," Weiss said. "That could be the greatest benefit, and we know we have a world-class team working on what will be some very difficult science ahead."

The college changed its name two years ago during its centennial celebration to include life sciences. Weiss noted that the college has a long history of working in many areas to improve people's lives, including an increased focus on biomedical research.

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