Friday, May 11, 2007
As many of you have guessed, we are in Australia. We are visiting the farm of George and Jenny Jackson, who own and run Banksia Park Alpacas near Perth, in Western Australia. We are talking about embryo transfer and the freezing of alpaca embryos (both activities that are near to our hearts).
After I got the first two frozen/thawed llama pregnancies two years ago I stopped working in the lab. The solution to this problem of freezing camelid embryos had taken me 13 years and about 3000 hours of work alone in our little lab. I felt a bit like the guy who made the original run to Marathon and fell dead at the finish. I just didn't want to go back into the lab to work out the remaining bugs in the freezing protocol. Now I find it a real pleasure to do the work necessary to make freezing of embryos a practical reality for camelid breeders around the world.
Our good friend Alejandra von Baer from Temuco, Chile, is here with us. Alejandra also worked on this problem over the past 13 years and is very familiar with all aspects of embryo freezing except the use of the Dracula Pipette. She is sharing her notes on other freezing protocols with me and I am introducing her to Count Dracula. With the announcement that regulations are now in place for importation of frozen alpaca embryos from the US to Australia, we're seeing a surge in interest in embryo transfer and in the freezing of these camelid embryos. I expect Alejandra to find work doing contract ET in Australia in the coming years.
Natasha James, of Wesuri Alpacas here in the Perth area, is working with us. She is keen to learn about the freezing of embryos, and may do much of the research that remains to be done after we go home. The fact is, the people who make any further advances in freezing of camelid embryos will have to have access to these embryos for study.
Sally and I have just about finished our careers in embryo transfer work. Alejandra, Natasha and a very small number of others around the world will take it from here, with our blessing. Sally and I will do a bit of teaching, but we don't really want to be away from the ranch and our animal friends for more that two or three weeks at a stretch from now on.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
We finally had to cancel our plans to go to Peru to assist with the startup of the Minera Ares embryo transfer project there. We had some differences with the management, but mainly they were unresponsive when we were trying to arrange for our visit.
Now we are discussing another project in Peru, as well as a working visit to Australia. It seems that importation of frozen embryos of alpacas to Australia from Peru will be a reality very soon, so everyone is suddenly interested in the freezing of these embryos. If we can work the Australia trip into our schedule in May, we will do it. If not, everything will have to wait until October. We have visitors (friends, scientists and scientist friends) coming to the ranch all through the summer and fall. If we are retired you'd never know it.
There probably are not many US alpaca breeders who stop by this page, but here's a bit of news for them. A protocol for the importation of frozen camelid embryos to Australia from the US should be in place within a few weeks. That means that US alpaca breeders will be able to sell their genetics to interested Aussie alpaca breeders. The US registry for alpacas has forbidden the registration of alpacas produced by any assisted reproductive technology (read "embryo transfer"), but the Australian Alpaca Registry has embraced embryo transfer. Guess who is going to win the race to produce the best alpacas in the world.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
We've been contacted by a representative of Homeland Security to participate in a project designed to investigate the unique immune system of the camelids. There is a lot of interest in the small physical size of the very effective circulating antibodies that llamas produce, as well as their abiltiy to provide immunity to a wide range of diseases. These nanobodies are much more stable than human antibodies when exposed to heat and other extreme conditions. Homeland Security researchers likely will be coming here to the ranch for studies later this spring.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Quite a long time has passed since I made an entry on the News page of our site. It's not that nothing of interest has happened around here, I just haven't had the time. We are changing over from the old and very simple web page editor we've used for the past 10 years to a newer, more flexible editor (Microsoft Front Page), and I have to learn some new tricks.
We have a good video camera now, and I'd like to be able to post a video clip on the web site from time to time. We'll see how that goes in the coming days.
I finally got around to updating the section on The Fiduciary, putting our old friend in the past tense and including a couple of tributes written after his death. Also, there is a new story explaining the problems and solutions in Freezing of Camelid Embryos. This can be reached from the Home Page by clicking on Llama Reproduction. I plan to expand the Repro section of the site soon.
We have a consulting agreement with the Peruvian mining company that is funding a big embryo transfer project, with the facility currently under construction between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Sally and I are supposed to go to Peru to advise and assist for two two-week periods each year. This year may be a little different, because the permanent facility won't be finished until October (maybe), but in future years they want us in Peru in November and again in March. This year we likely will go to a temporary facility near Lake Titicaca in May to help the young people that Alejandra von Baer and I trained in '05 (see Peru Photos) to make a start at transferring embryos on their own. Dr. Julio Sumar has selected the highest-quality alpacas available in Peru for this project, and he will be the Director of the project (MEGA Alpaca) beginning in May of this year.
I had surgery on January 8 to replace a bad knee (the left one). This is tricky surgery, but I had one of the top men in the field, Dr. Dan Gannon, who practices right here in Bozeman. I think I've had an easy time of this, as I am younger and more active than many of the people who have knee replacement surgery. I was walking without assistance three days after the surgery and began playing racquetball doubles only four weeks after surgery. I'm not playing very well yet, but better each time and I'm already able to move better than I did before the surgery. This opens the door to a lot more years of horseback riding, hiking, sailing and dancing.