In a rare case of a scientific breakthrough that is equal parts adorable and groundbreaking, researchers managed to impregnate a dog via in-vitro fertilization, successfully leading to a litter for the first time.
Now, seven adorable furry puppies could be the key to saving endangered wolf and fox species, according to researchers based at Cornell University who announced the news today in a new study in PLOS one.
Lead author Jennifer Nagashima explained it has been extremely difficult to have dogs reproduce via IVF due to their unique reproductive systems.
"I like to say it’s because dogs are weird. ... They have a lot of fun, reproductive quirks," Nagashima explained. "They experience really long periods where they don’t cycle. They go into heat once or twice a year."
Additionally, she explained that after ovulation the eggs have to be in the reproductive system for a few days to become viable. In order to have the IVF work this time, researchers removed the eggs from donor dogs approximately six days after ovulation via surgery and then fertilized with sperm collected from other male dogs. The embryos were then frozen before they were implanted.
Of the 19 embryos implanted, seven puppies were born, researchers said. The puppies were a Beagle and Cocker Spaniel mix and are about 5 months old.
Nagashima explained the experiment could be imperative to helping the survival of other endangered canid species, such as the red wolf or African wild dog.
"In most cases with canid species, their populations are declining," said Nagashima, noting there are more than 30 canid species. "We need to develop a tool," to keep their genetics alive.
All seven pups have already been adopted and one has already been named "Ivy" in honor of the breakthrough method of "IV"-F, researchers said.