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Worlds First Cloned Super Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   31st Jan 2018   •   1,516 views   •   1 comments


For the last several weeks news stories about horse clones have been showing up in news and social media feeds. A UK headline read"

“First genetically engineered super horse, designed to be faster and stronger, could be born in 2019”

For those of us who know a bit about horses, cloning is old news. The pros and cons of horse cloning have been hotly debated and I wrote about the cloning of polo ponies back in 2015. As I wrote back then, the polo world enthusiastically adopted the technology of embryo transfer because it kept athletic mares on the field while surrogate broodmares carried their foal. This isn’t genetic manipulation, but a way to increases the number of offspring one mare can have, and still have use of the mare for the sport.

Cloning, however, doesn’t start with an embryo, but with a tissue sample. Cells are taken from either a mare or stallion. The nucleus of a horse ovum is replaced with cells from the tissue sample, and because there is no genetic information from another horse, the ovum develops into an embryo that has only genetic information from the horse the tissue sample was taken from. The ovum is implanted with a surrogate mare. The resulting foal is an exact copy of the horse the tissue sample was taken from. Right now, there are several cloned polo horses. The first cloned horse was born in 2003.

Obviously, there are some benefits and drawbacks. Cloned animals can be born with health problems. Not all breed associations are enthusiastic about cloning. And, there is a possibility of passing on negative characteristics with genetic material, as well as positive ones. The resistance to cloned horses is decreasing with the FEI allowing cloned horses in competition since 2013 because they felt cloned horses did not have a significant advantage over regular horses.

So up until now, cloned horses did not have any significant edge over their non-cloned brethren. That could change with a technology with the acronym CRISPR. CRISPR has been around for awhile. I first heard of it on an NPR podcast a few years ago and have been fascinated and repelled by the potential of the process. The explanation of what CRISPR actually is - a difficult to understand bacteria, virus, protein and enzyme interaction within DNA, is far more complicated than what it does. With CRISPR, it is possible to not only replicate genes but actually edit them.

Potentially, CRISPR could be used to edit out things like genetic diseases or, in the case of performance horses edit their DNA to increase their muscle mass, their speed, and endurance. That’s why the headlines have been calling CRISPR edited horses, ‘super horses’. In the quest to develop the perfect horse, CRISPR presents a massive shortcut, eliminating the need for many generations of selective breeding, which, as we know is a gamble.
Horse News More In This Category:  Equine Technology      Horse News More From This Author:  Winniefield Park
You Say  
Really do not see the point in cloning. But interesting read.
  Feb 1, 2018  •  1,598 views
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