Best of 2009: Tuesday at Colorado State University's Equine Reproduction Lab

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by Fran Jurga | 29 December 2009 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

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Click here to vote for Colorado State University equine reproduction specialist Dr. Pat McCue in MSN's Butterfly Awards.

A story about Colorado State University veterinarians' quick action after the Windsor tornado to save the eggs of a mare who died as a result of the tornado has been selected as one of the top five stories of the year by NBC's national Nightly News. Two healthy twin foals were born to surrogate mothers last spring, and captured the hearts of the news program's viewers.

The story selected by viewers through an online vote as the favorite story of the year will receive $10,000. If the CSU story wins, it will benefit critically ill foals and educational programs related to newborn foals at the university. Viewers are encouraged to vote for their favorite story of the five online finalists at http://msnawards.onlinepromo.com/ by Jan. 4.

If chosen, the funds would go to the CSU Foundation for use in the CSU Equine Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which treatments premature and critically ill newborns foals, and the reproduction class teaches undergraduate and veterinary students -- future horse owners, veterinarians and other equine professionals -- to care for pregnant mares and their foals, including foals in crisis.

The story, which aired on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams last spring, tells the tale of Tuesday, an American Quarter Horse mare who belonged to a family near Windsor. Tuesday was fatally injured by the tornado that devastated parts of Windsor on May 22, 2008. In April, CSU veterinarians and sisters Jennifer Mears and Mandy Mercer, celebrated the birth of Tuesday's healthy twin foals born four days apart and almost a year after their mother's death.

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Colorado State University veterinarians harvested Tuesday's ovaries at the university's Veterinary Teaching Hospital shortly before her death, and staff at the CSU Equine Reproduction Laboratory used state-of-the-art assisted reproduction technology to generate embryos from eggs recovered from Tuesday's ovaries. As a result of the technology and efforts of the ERL, two pregnancies were carried to term in surrogate mothers.

The twin foals were named Thursday and Windsor through a vote by the local community.

Following local media attention, NBC national news producers visited the CSU Equine Reproduction Laboratory and the Mears' farm to do a story on the miracle births.

Dr. Pat McCue, director of the Equine Reproduction Laboratory, and other reproduction experts at CSU did the work pro-bono as a way to help the community of Windsor recover from the tornado. Equine emergency staff at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital were instrumental in starting the process as a way to ease the grief of Jennifer Mears as she was saying her final goodbye to the horse she has dubbed her best friend.

While the technology used in the births of the twins is very advanced, it is available to horse owners around the world through the ERL, which is known internationally for innovation, clinical service and education. The ERL plays a role in dozens of extraordinary births each year through assisted reproduction technology.

It is rare to have two foals produced by the technique, known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI, under such dire circumstances.

"There was only a 25 to 30 percent chance that even one embryo would develop, and it was something of a small miracle that two pregnancies survived in surrogate mares," McCue said.

Note: I think this is a great, heartwarming story and hope you agree. The problem is that breeding horses in 2009 was a controversial thing to do, given the number of horses who need homes and help at present. I am choosing to feature this story because of the tragedy that the Mears family endured in the loss of their property and their mare and for the generosity of CSU in helping them. I sincerely hope that horse owners will not line up for ERL technology services at CSU until the current crisis is over or unless they are certain that they can provide lifetime homes for a new generation of horses.

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