Playful pups conceived via in vitro fertilization for the first time

Embryo success could pave way to save endangered species and rid dogs of heritable diseases


DOGGONE CUTE  These puppies are part of the first litter of dogs (five beagles and two beagle‒cocker spaniel mixes) conceived by in vitro fertilization.

Mike Carroll/Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

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Test tube puppies have arrived.

For the first time, a dog has given birth to a litter of puppies conceived by in vitro fertilization, scientists report December 9 in PLOS ONE.

The success could make it easier for wildlife conservationists to help such endangered species as the African painted dog or the Ethiopian wolf, says study coauthor Alexander Travis, a reproductive biologist at Cornell University. IVF could also help scientists one day rid dogs of heritable diseases, such as urinary stones in dalmatians: After creating an embryo in a dish, scientists could use gene editing to fix troublesome mutations.

IVF has long been used in humans, mice and other mammals. But doing it in dogs has stumped scientists for decades. Typically, scientists harvest eggs and sperm to create embryos in the lab, and then transfer them into a female. But conditions have to be just right for fertilization to occur.

Compared with humans, dogs’ eggs have to rest longer in the fallopian tubes before harvest, Travis and colleagues found. And for dog sperm to mature properly, it needs access to magnesium. By tweaking the typical technique, the team successfully created puppy embryos and transferred 19 into a beagle mother. She delivered seven live puppies.

Now 5 months old, the puppies are healthy and developing just like puppies conceived the old-fashioned way. “They are playful and energetic and get into everything,” says Travis, who adopted two. 

PUPPY LOVE  Scientists have finally figured out how to perform in vitro fertilization in dogs: Tweaks to the technique led to the conception and birth of these seven playful puppies.

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

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