Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cloning and Gene Banking

ViaGen, "The Cloning Company" can produce an exact genetic replica of my horse. Okay not MY horse, of course, but one's horse. Allie comes to mind: a 25 year old Hanoverian gelding with the patience and demeanor of a saint; Moorlands Totilas also comes to mind: how many horses earn in the 90th percentiles in Grand Prix dressage? (That would be a sum total of one: the Trakehner Totilas.)

So, for only $150,000 one can have an exact genetic clone produced of one's mare, stallion, or GELDING. Not sure if it's right for you now, or you just want to have a safety net to fall back on in case of accident or you geld a colt that later proves it could have been stallion material? For $1,500 you can gene bank your horse's DNA for storage for future cloning. But act now: only live tissue can be used so if your horse passes it's too late. Be aware: in my sport of Dressage there are no current restrictions about competing on clones; the Jockey Club flat refuses to register any clones and the AQHA racing industry is trying to fight the registration of clones for race track use.

Personally I see both sides: as a scientist it is definitely tampering with nature to throw out the possibility of desirable genetic mutations by making a heritable stamp of an existing animal (for example, Allie cribs: would his clone crib also?) and possibly stunting natural genetic progression for the improvement of modern horses. On the other hand, as an amateur horse owner, I certainly see the allure of reproducing an exact replica of a beloved animal that has proven itself in the barn aisle, competition arena, daily schooling, and maybe even the breeding shed.

Either way it is exciting to think about the possibilities of attaining the "perfect" horse, whether through the new hindsight of cloning or the traditional methods of humans trialing genetics over successive generations through selective breeding.

Where Are They Now from Viagen on Vimeo.

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