January 30, 2004 (STAR) By Rocel C. Felix - Filipino animal scientists at the Philippine Carabao Center in the Science City of Muńoz, Nueva Ecija are ecstatic over the breakthrough — the birth last Jan. 16 of the world’s first twin test-tube buffaloes using the embryo technology (ET).

"The birth of the twin calves using ET, a first in the world, comes to us like a refreshing breeze at a time when the rest of Asia and America are languishing with livestock problems like avian flu, mad cow disease, hog cholera other serious animal diseases," Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. said after hearing the good news.

"This is definitely an inspiring and encouraging report and everyone should feel happy about it because until the twins came out, only single buffalo births had been done through ET anywhere around the globe," an elated Lorenzo said.

PCC executive director Libertado Cruz, said the twin calves, both males, came out two hours apart last Friday, with the first, born at around five in the morning weighing 26 kilograms, while the second was born at around seven weighing 28.4 kg.

They were born out of the embryo technology, otherwise known as test tube and freezing technology or in-vitro fertilization (IVF)and vitrification, developed by a PCC research group composed of team leader Danilda Hufana-Duran, Prudencio Pedro and Rogelio Hufana.

It was the same artificial reproduction method applied to at least 200 female buffaloes in the country, which resulted in single births of nine other ET calves since 2002, beginning with Glory, now 21 months old, which was named after President Arroyo because it was born during her birthday on April.

Like the twins, six of the nine other ET calves had been born from Riverine (Bulgarian) water buffalo surrogate mothers out of the first batch of embryos brought by the research team from India about three years ago. The other three had also been formed from Indian buffalo embryos but were delivered from swamp surrogate mothers of the native carabao stock.

Duran said the twin’s mother is being kept at the PCC National Gene Pool which received the embryo by embryo transfer last March 21, 2003.

She said the in-vitro fertilization is being done at the carabao center to check if the embryos produced from the test tube and freezing technology would be viable and that calves produced would be in normal conditions.

Having proven this successfully through single births and now, with the twin’s birth, it is now scientifically possible to enhance twinning by transferring more than one embryo in a recipient animal, Duran said.

"With this breakthrough, we can now propagate high genetics buffaloes in a shorter period of time, using lesser investment and obtaining higher profit," she said.

Pedro pointed out that the successful birth of the twins became even more inspiring because all the 10 surrogate mother buffaloes induced since 2001 to carry three embryos at a given time in the hope of increasing their likelihood to deliver twins failed.

With the achievement, future trials will be done to native carabaos in PCC-Philippine Carabao Gene Pool in Cagayan State University to test if native carabaos can be a potential recipient for twin calves, Cruz said.

"PCC now hopes to improve the genetic make-up of the local carabao using the scientific break-through as an advantage. If we succeed further, we can produce buffaloes that can help supply our need for meat and milk and enable the country cut its high milk and meat import bills," Cruz said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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