The puppies in the picture above look completely unremarkable, other than being adorable dogs who are chasing each other and doing adorable dog things. But they are actually part of a first-of-its-kind litter, three of seven puppies who were born through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Researchers at Cornell University successfully transferred 19 embryos into a surrogate female dog, who was able to give birth to seven pups, five of which are full Beagles and two that have Beagle mothers and Cocker Spaniel fathers.
Scientists have been working on this particular reproductive problem since the 1970s, but have had zero success, partially because of some challenges inherent to female dogs’ reproductive cycles. They have had to overcome difficulties involving the eggs taken from dogs’ ovaries and had to discover how to simulate the biological changes of a fertile female dog’s reproductive tract in a laboratory setting. After solving those problems, the team was able to successfully — and artificially — fertilize dogs’ eggs between 80 and 90 percent of the time.
Researchers believe that canine IVF could have a wide range of applications, from preserving endangered species to saving rare breeds to potentially curing genetic diseases.
“With a combination of gene editing techniques and IVF, we can potentially prevent genetic disease before it starts,” study co-author Alex Travis said.