Clone of Endurance Champion Thrives

Italian researchers today (April 14) announced that the first clone of a gelded horse is healthy and thriving. The Arabian colt is a genetic copy of U.S. endurance rider Valerie Kanavy's world champion Pieraz and represents the ability of researchers to preserve a gelding's genetic material.

The colt, named Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion, was born on Feb. 25 at the Laboratorio di Tecnologie della Riproduzione-Consorzio per l'Incremento Zootecnico (LTR-CIZ), a research facility on the outskirts of Cremona, Italy. He is the second horse clone to be born in the world. The first horse foal, Prometea, was born in 2003 at the same facility. (The first equid clone was a mule born in the United States in 2003). Pieraz' clone weighed 42 kg (about 93 pounds) at birth, according to a release from Cesare Galli, DVM, of LTR-CIZ.

Galli wrote, "This new approach opens the possibility of preserving the genetic heritage of many exceptional horses whose genes are presently lost because of the castration." Pieraz was world champion of endurance racing in 1994 (at Den Haag, Holland) and in 1996 (at Fort Riley, United States), and he is now retired at Kanavy's farm. Pieraz' single clone will not be a competition horse, but will be able to transmit his genes to his progeny as a stud.

"Repeatability of the technique is now proven as both births were obtained in the Italian laboratory LTR-CIZ lead by Prof. Cesare Galli," noted the release. Galli also is known for producing the first bull clone from blood cells in 1999.

"Between the two horse clone births, the technique was improved by better oocyte maturation and more efficient embryo culture in vitro," the release continued.

The cells for the cloning work were provided by Cryozootech, the company founded in 2001 by Eric Palmer with the help of Genopole, a genetics company in Evry, France, with the objective of preserving exceptional horse genes.

In 2002, Kanavy expressed interest in the innovative idea that in spite of having been castrated, her champion could transmit his qualities to future generations of endurance horses. No horse clone had been born when she allowed Eric Palmer to perform a biopsy in order to culture a cell line and store it in liquid nitrogen. The genetic bank now contains the cells of 30 horses, all of them exceptional in their specific categories--not only champion in endurance, show jumping, dressage, and eventing, but also endangered breeds of horses and donkeys.

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