Penn Vet 'Foal Cam' will live stream horse birth

In an announcement that will excite equine enthusiasts, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has decided to broadcast the birth of a baby horse.

Penn Vet’s “Foal Cam,” set up inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the New Bolton Center, will go live Feb. 26. Users can through the Penn Vet website watch 11-year-old Thoroughbred mare My Special Girl finish the final weeks of her pregnancy. She’s slated to foal in mid-March.

Animal care workers said the birth will come as a particularly special delivery – My Special Girl’s burgeoning bounty is the first successful pregnancy engineered by Penn Vet using an advanced reproductive technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

Technicians obtained a single sperm from frozen semen belonging to a long-deceased stallion that was once part of the Hoffman Research Center’s teaching program. The sperm was injected into a mare’s mature egg using a specialized, high-powered microscope with tiny pipettes. The fertilized egg was cultured in an incubator until the embryo was April 15 transferred to My Special Girl.

While ICSI is a common procedure used in human medicine, it can also be used for mares that can’t get pregnant or conventionally carry offspring, or to help deceased stallions carry on a legacy from beyond the grave.

“It is great to be able to apply the tools and skills that we commonly use in treating human infertility, and make slight adjustments that allow us to cross over into the animal world,” Penn Medicine’s Matthew VerMilyea, who is performing ICSI on several equine eggs, said in a statement.

Once the foal is born, Penn Vet will hold a contest to come up with a name. The animal will be adopted by New Bolton Center assistant professor of medicine Rose Nolen-Watson, who lives on a nearby farm.

Cochranville resident and former Olympian Lisa Fergusson will train the foal in eventing, an equestrian sport combining dressage, show jumping and cross-country competition.

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

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