Coupled Colts

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First, there was Dolly. The sheep made 1997 headlines, spurring the rest of the country to contemplate the consequences of cloning and starting a whole new generation of science fiction fans. After controversy over technique and frustrating trials across the globe, a barnyard full of animals began seeing double. Now, researchers at Texas A&M have cloned a foal using live egg cells.

Though they are not the first to clone a horse, nor is it their first cloned horse (that foal was born in 2005), it is the first foal produced from the oocyte (egg cells) from a live mare. The horse has been named "Mouse" in honor of the experimental subject first cloned by the technique from which it was born.

Mouse started out as a skin cell biopsy from the original horse, Marc. Marc's owner had been searching for another horse like Marc to purchase when she heard about the opportunity to clone the beloved horse from her veternarian. Oocytes were then taken from a mare and viable embryos were created and inserted into a surrogate mare.

So will Mouse grow up to be exactly like Marc? The nature/nurture debate continues as Dr. Katrin Hinrichs, who led the research team that produced Mouse, noted that though Mouse is an identical genetic clone, they will be different horses due to environmental influences. Mouse has been returned to the original owner and is currently thriving, ironic name notwithstanding. (Which is perhaps, no more morale-injuring than the aptly named cloned cattle, "Milk" and "Cookies.")

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