The science behind these puppies could help save endangered species (and people, too)

Pssst...I hear we're kind of a big deal Photo Credit: Mike Carroll/Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Pssst…I hear we’re kind of a big deal…
The world’s first IVF puppies!
Photo Credit: Mike Carroll/Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

The Problem

  • IVF is used to help preserve endangered species, but using it to preserve endangered dog species hasn’t been possible in the past.
  • Dogs and humans share over 350 genetic traits and disorders that can be passed on to offspring (also known as heritable traits). Learning more about dog traits and even genetically altering these traits in dogs could help “cure” human diseases and disorders.
  • Scientists have been trying for YEARS to produce dogs using IVF without success (the first human conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF), was born in 1978). Turns out, dogs have tricky reproductive systems that are hard to duplicate.

The Study

  • Scientists first collected* the sperm and eggs from the dogs (Labrador retrievers, beagles and cocker spaniels were used in this study).
  •  They knew that six days is the “magic” number for when eggs from dogs are most successfully fertilized, so they collected eggs from the dogs six days after they ovulated
  • They fertilized the eggs with sperm that had Magnesium added to the “medium” (basically, lab-produced semen) they were stored in to see if it would affect sperm speed and success
Maybe he's born with it. Maybe it's Magnesium.
Maybe he’s born with it. Maybe it’s Magnesium.


  • They waited for the zygote (sperm + egg) divide once
  • They froze the new embryos (sperm + egg + one cell division)
  • They thawed the embryos and put them into female dogs
  • They waited a few weeks and did doggy ultrasounds to check for pregnancy


The Results

  • Magnesium-treated sperm produced fertilized eggs more effectively than sperm that wasn’t treated with magnesium
  • Freezing and unfreezing the embryos was a great success!
  • Puppies were born! The beagle puppies, three girls and four boys, were healthy at birth and have developed normally ever since. Hooray for adorable science!


The Takeaway

  • This could dramatically improve our ability to breed and preserve endangered species that are related to domestic dogs, like the Red Wolf (which have as few as 50 individuals left in the wild. 50. Ugh.)
So wolf. Much endangered. Plz save.
So wolf. Much endangered. Plz save.
Photo Credit: USFWS/B. Bartel
  • This could lead to better treatments and tests for genetic disorders found in both dogs and humans and could even help get rid of certain gene mutations that cause  these diseases and disorders
  • Cuteness aside, this is a big deal for the future of genetic research

*Whenever you think your job sucks, just think to yourself, “Self, my job could be manually collecting animal sperm. Self, I think I actually LOVE my job!”

To see a ridiculously adorable video of these super-scientific hounds, get your “awww” face ready and click here

Want to learn some new vocab and read all about how those puppies were made? Here ya go!


1. Nagashima JB, Sylvester SR, Nelson JL, Cheong SH, Mukai C, Lambo C, et al. (2015) Live Births from Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris) Embryos Produced by In Vitro Fertilization. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143930. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143930

2. Science News Daily:



Author: Emily

I started Rise and Sci because I love science, I love teaching people new things and I want to help build a greater public understanding of all things science. My goal is to take hard to understand concepts and make them accessible to everyone- all in a fun an interesting format!

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