Myers Performance Horses invests in cloning technology for Frenchmans Guy | TSLN.com

Myers Performance Horses invests in cloning technology for Frenchmans Guy

In 2003, the first equine was cloned in Italy. In 2005, Texas A&M cloned the first equine in the U.S. Since that history-making day, over 40 horses have been cloned. Many of the cloned horses are famous performers from the racetrack, cutting arena, rodeo arena and even the roughstock arena. Cloning has involved geldings, mares and stallions, plus mules.

The relatively new technology has enabled owners of superior geldings to produce a stallion for reproductive purposes which is genetically an exact copy of the original horse. In 2006, Charmayne James cloned her great gelding Gills Bay Boy, better known as Scamper. Scamper was World Champion Barrel Horse at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) 10 consecutive times in his career, and James sought to reproduce the ability and mentality of that great horse through cloning.

That clone, Clayton, now stands at stud at James’ barrel horse breeding facility in Texas. He looks and acts like Scamper, according to James, and she has high hopes for his career as a barrel sire.

The cost of cloning a horse is prohibitive to most people and has not diminished with time. Most cost around $150,000 per clone, a rate that isn’t likely to change.

The procedure of cloning isn’t all that difficult, from a scientist’s point of view. A small tissue sample is taken from the skin on the horse’s chest, packaged, and sent to the laboratory where cells are grown in a culture. Through a process, called nucleur transfer, DNA from the horse’s cells is transferred into enucleated oocytes, which are eggs from which the genetic material of the mare has been removed and discarded. The DNA from the donor, called an adult (body) cell, containing two sets of genes (one each from the sire and dam of the donor) is then placed into the enucleated oocytes. An electrochemical stimulus is applied and the egg/cell “couplet” fuses into a clone embryo, which begins to divide like a naturally conceived embryo. After a brief period of growth in an incubator, the embryo is transferred into the recipient mare as is done in standard embryo transfer procedures.

There has been difficulty involving the cloned offspring of cattle and sheep, in that the offspring are oversized at birth and have organ system problems. That hasn’t been a problem for the 14 live foals produced at Texas A&M, though there have been other issues. About half of the foals had some problems such as weakness and maladjustment at birth, contracted tendons in the front limbs, and enlarged umbilical stumps, some of which had to be surgically removed. These problems are all found in naturally occurring foals as well.

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The question of what is causing the problems at birth most likely can be answered by the differences in how the genes are being used, or gene expression, in the cloned foals. When the DNA of a skin cell from the donor horse is placed in a host egg or oocyte, the oocyte has to redo all of the on/off instructions attached to the DNA before the DNA can start to produce the correct genes to make the embryo. Sometimes these changes don’t happen quite right and can be related to problems in the placental function, which is controlled by a very complicated genetic system. Some of these incorrect changes in gene expression can happen in the foal itself, but fortunately, when that foal is an adult, its sperm or eggs on/off switches are reset and the cloned horse’s offspring will be normal.

Some breeders are making the decision to gene bank DNA from their horses now, just in case they would ever want to clone the individual. It cannot be done with DNA from a deceased horse. The gene bank can hold the sample for future use indefinitely.

In 2003, the first equine was cloned in Italy. In 2005, Texas A&M cloned the first equine in the U.S. Since that history-making day, over 40 horses have been cloned. Many of the cloned horses are famous performers from the racetrack, cutting arena, rodeo arena and even the roughstock arena. Cloning has involved geldings, mares and stallions, plus mules.

The relatively new technology has enabled owners of superior geldings to produce a stallion for reproductive purposes which is genetically an exact copy of the original horse. In 2006, Charmayne James cloned her great gelding Gills Bay Boy, better known as Scamper. Scamper was World Champion Barrel Horse at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) 10 consecutive times in his career, and James sought to reproduce the ability and mentality of that great horse through cloning.

That clone, Clayton, now stands at stud at James’ barrel horse breeding facility in Texas. He looks and acts like Scamper, according to James, and she has high hopes for his career as a barrel sire.

The cost of cloning a horse is prohibitive to most people and has not diminished with time. Most cost around $150,000 per clone, a rate that isn’t likely to change.

The procedure of cloning isn’t all that difficult, from a scientist’s point of view. A small tissue sample is taken from the skin on the horse’s chest, packaged, and sent to the laboratory where cells are grown in a culture. Through a process, called nucleur transfer, DNA from the horse’s cells is transferred into enucleated oocytes, which are eggs from which the genetic material of the mare has been removed and discarded. The DNA from the donor, called an adult (body) cell, containing two sets of genes (one each from the sire and dam of the donor) is then placed into the enucleated oocytes. An electrochemical stimulus is applied and the egg/cell “couplet” fuses into a clone embryo, which begins to divide like a naturally conceived embryo. After a brief period of growth in an incubator, the embryo is transferred into the recipient mare as is done in standard embryo transfer procedures.

There has been difficulty involving the cloned offspring of cattle and sheep, in that the offspring are oversized at birth and have organ system problems. That hasn’t been a problem for the 14 live foals produced at Texas A&M, though there have been other issues. About half of the foals had some problems such as weakness and maladjustment at birth, contracted tendons in the front limbs, and enlarged umbilical stumps, some of which had to be surgically removed. These problems are all found in naturally occurring foals as well.

The question of what is causing the problems at birth most likely can be answered by the differences in how the genes are being used, or gene expression, in the cloned foals. When the DNA of a skin cell from the donor horse is placed in a host egg or oocyte, the oocyte has to redo all of the on/off instructions attached to the DNA before the DNA can start to produce the correct genes to make the embryo. Sometimes these changes don’t happen quite right and can be related to problems in the placental function, which is controlled by a very complicated genetic system. Some of these incorrect changes in gene expression can happen in the foal itself, but fortunately, when that foal is an adult, its sperm or eggs on/off switches are reset and the cloned horse’s offspring will be normal.

Some breeders are making the decision to gene bank DNA from their horses now, just in case they would ever want to clone the individual. It cannot be done with DNA from a deceased horse. The gene bank can hold the sample for future use indefinitely.

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