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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
First cloned horse unveiled in Italy
By Fergus Walsh
BBC science correspondent, in Cremona

Italian scientists have succeeded in creating the world's first horse clone.

Prometea and Fergus Walsh, BBC
Prometea: Pleased to be in human company
The foal, called Prometea, was born 10 weeks ago and appears to be perfectly healthy.

To create Prometea, scientists took a skin cell from an adult mare which was fused with an empty equine egg.

The mare then acted as a surrogate mother for Prometea - so giving birth to a carbon copy of herself.

The development is reported in the journal Nature. It means scientists have now cloned sheep, mice, cattle, goats, rabbits, cats, pigs and mules. The mule, called Idaho Gem, was born earlier this year in the US.

Prometea, BBC
The Haflinger is a popular European breed
The Laboratory of Reproductive Technology is in Cremona, an hour's drive from Milan. I went there to meet Prometea and her creator, Cesare Galli.

Prometea is inquisitive and docile. She fed happily from my hand as we filmed her for television news.

Rather like Dolly the sheep, the most famous clone of all, who I met a few years ago, she appears delighted to meet the public and is not at all camera-shy.

The stables Prometea shares with her surrogate mother also houses two cow clones.

Cesare Galli is delighted with his achievement and believes it could have major implications for horse racing.

Cloned mule (University of Idaho)
The hydrid mule Idaho Gem was born earlier this year
He says in theory you could have a race full of clones of the greatest racehorses competing against each other. But the rules would need to change first.

Thoroughbred horseracing is strictly controlled - it does not permit artificial insemination or any kind of fertility treatment.

The cloning technique could have a particular role, says Galli, in perpetuating the sporting success of male show and jump horses that have been castrated. Geldings, which have their testicles removed at an early age, have no ability to reproduce normally.

Prometea was the successful outcome of 328 attempts to construct and implant a viable embryo.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"She appears healthy; the real test will be if she remains that way"



SEE ALSO:
BHB concerned about cloning
07 Aug 03  |  Horse Racing
Cloning first for horse family
29 May 03  |  Science/Nature
Dolly goes on display
09 Apr 03  |  Scotland
Morocco's miracle mule 'confirmed'
04 Nov 02  |  Science/Nature


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