Scientists Produce Rare Wood Bison Calves Through IVF

Posted: Jul 23 2016, 7:17pm CDT | by , Updated: Jul 23 2016, 7:20pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Scientists Produce Rare Wood Bison Calves Through IVF
University of Saskatchewan researchers have succeeded in producing wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) through in vitro fertilization. Credit: Caitlin Taylor

In a first, Canadian veterinary researchers have successfully produced three wood bison calves using in vitro fertilization.

Indigenous to Canada, the wood bison are threatened both by disease and loss of habitat.

Between 5,000 and 7,000 wood bison remain in the wild -- less than five per cent of their original numbers.

Scientists hope that this reproductive breakthrough by researchers from the University of Saskatchewan will help retain genetic diversity and eventually rebuild the depleted wild herds.

"The babies look great," said Gregg Adams, Professor at Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), University of Saskatchewan.

"They're keeping up with mom, and I'm really happy about it," Adams said in a university statement.

Researchers produced them in a laboratory, then transferred the embryos into surrogate mothers more than nine months ago. The bison cows gave birth to the calves earlier this month, the statement added.

A fourth calf was produced from a frozen embryo that was taken from a bison cow in 2012 and transferred to a surrogate mother in 2015 -- another reproductive first for the bison species, the researchers said.

"The whole objective of our program is to conserve the species. I think what we're doing with advanced reproductive technologies is really designed to preserve the genetic diversity (of the animals)," Adams said.

"If we can preserve the genetic diversity, I'll feel like I've done my job. That will benefit both the wild populations as well as any livestock producers," Adams noted.

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