A team of scientists and researchers from Cornell University and the Smithsonian Institution watched as a litter of puppies produced in a test-tube was born to a surrogate mother for the first time, in what they described as "a huge breakthrough."
The seven adorable puppies born on July 10 through in vitro fertilization could be the key to saving endangered animals, researchers said.
While in vitro fertilization — the process used to fertilize an egg with a sperm outside of the body — has been used for human reproduction since 1978, it has not proven successful for dogs until now.
Researchers said it has been difficult to successfully reproduce dogs through IVF because of their short cycles and other reproductive quirks.
To produce the seven puppies born in July, 19 embryos were implanted in a surrogate dog using sperm from five different males, according to the study published Wednesday in PLOS one. Two of the successful offspring came from a beagle mother and a cocker spaniel father, while the other five came from two different sets of beagle fathers and mothers.
Lead author Jennifer Nagashima told ABC News the experiment could help breed endangered animals in the Canid species such as the red wolf or African wild dog.
"In most cases with canid species, their populations are declining," said Nagashima.
Researchers might also be able to use the technology, along with gene editing techniques, to remove some inheritable diseases common in certain dogs.
"With a combination of gene editing techniques and IVF, we can potentially prevent genetic disease before it starts," Alex Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology in the Baker Institute for Animal Health in Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine said.
All of the puppies, who are about five-months-old now, have already been adopted. One was named Ivy in honor or the IVF breakthrough. Another was adopted by the lab and will hopefully have its own set of puppies when she's older.