Starting today, students will have access to the miracle of life - horse edition.
An eleven-year-old thoroughbred named My Special Girl is expecting to deliver her foal mid-March at the New Bolton Center Campus in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Starting today, students can watch the live birth on Penn Vet’s website, but the father can’t - the sperm cell came from the frozen semen of a deceased stallion.
My Special Girl is a surrogate mare, pregnant with an egg from another horse. She was impregnated last April through intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI.
“We want to give the public a behind-the-scenes look at the work we do at New Bolton Center, to allow people to see our veterinarians, technicians and staff doing their jobs,” Penn Vet Associate Dean for New Bolton Center Corinne Sweeney said. “New Bolton Center is a teaching hospital, and this is an educational opportunity.”
ICSI is a common infertility treatment for humans, but the procedure is not as common in the equine population. The process entails injecting a single sperm cell into an egg, which is incubated for eight days and then transplanted into the mare.
“There are a handful ... of other places in the country who have produced live foals using this procedure,” Penn Vet Associate Professor and Foal Cam coordinator Regina Turner said. She added that My Special Girl’s pregnancy is “special and rare.”
Equine ICSI was spearheaded by Colorado State and Texas A&M universities. The success of My Special Girl’s pregnancy will place Penn Vet among the few that offer this advanced service.
“We want to join this select group and stay on the forefront of assisted reproduction by offering this service to our clients,” Turner said.
While Penn Vet is keeping the gender of the foal a secret, the school will be hosting a naming contest through Facebook and its website. The foal will be raised by My Special Girl for the first six months before being adopted by Penn Vet Assistant Professor of Large Animal Medicine Rose Nolen-Walston . A gormer Olympian of Canada’s Eventing team is slated to train the foal.
“We are very much looking forward to the birth of this foal, and to meeting the new member of our barn family,” Nolen-Walston said. “Given the lineage, this foal could grow up to be a terrific sport horse.”