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Archive for Sunday, April 17, 2005

Italian scientists clone thoroughbred champion

April 17, 2005

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— Italian scientists said they had created their second cloned horse -- produced from the DNA of a thoroughbred Arabian gelding race champion.

The foal, named Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion, was born Feb. 25, weighed 93 pounds and was "in excellent health," said scientists at the Laboratory of Reproductive Technology in the northern Italian city of Cremona.

The young stallion was cloned from Pieraz, retired to a stable in the United States after winning world endurance championships in 1994 and 1996. The lab said the new cloned horse would not compete, but as a stallion would be able to pass on its genes.

The laboratory classified the birth as a breakthrough that paves the way for preserving the lines of the best race horses by creating clones that can breed.

"This new approach opens the possibility of conserving the genetic inheritance of exceptional horses whose genetic heritage gets lost because they are castrated," the laboratory said in a statement Thursday.

Cesare Galli, director of the laboratory, said racing horses sometimes were castrated when they were 3 years old to make them easier to train.

The Italian scientists used DNA from skin cells taken from the former champion, employing the same technique used in cloning Dolly the sheep in Britain. Dolly was euthanized in 2003 after she contracted a common livestock disease and her cells showed signs of premature aging.

Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion is the second horse cloned at the lab in Cremona. The first, Promotea, was born in May 2003.

Eric Palmer, founder of Cryozootech, holds a cloned foal named
Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion in a field near Cremona, Italy. The
foal, born in Feb. 25, is the first horse clone produced from a
castrated endurance champion with the purpose of preserving its
genetic heritage.

Eric Palmer, founder of Cryozootech, holds a cloned foal named Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion in a field near Cremona, Italy. The foal, born in Feb. 25, is the first horse clone produced from a castrated endurance champion with the purpose of preserving its genetic heritage.

Galli said the cloned horse's main purpose was to reproduce as soon as possible, which would not leave it time to train.

But at least in North America, the official breed registry said its rules banned cloned animals.

"Every thoroughbred in our registry is the descendant of two thoroughbreds, so this concerns the integrity of the breed," said the Jockey Club's spokesman, Bob Curran Jr.

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