Technique for Sexing Equine Embryos Evaluated

One embryo biopsy technique yields accurate results for sex determination without serious threat to survival.

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When you’re putting a lot of “eggs” in one basket, so to speak, by opting for embryo transfer to produce a foal, you expect the offspring of your dreams. Researchers understand that, and today, they’re closer than ever to safely performing genetic testing on embryos to ensure they meet owner expectations before they’re implanted in the recipient mare.

While scientists have been trying to perform these tests—such as to determine the fetus’ sex—for decades, the biopsy procedure involved is often detrimental fetus. According to Florence Guignot, PhD, of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research only about 20% of equine embryos survive the biopsy procedure.

But Guignot and colleagues recently completed research revealing that a previously developed aspiration technique for embryo biopsies yields accurate genotyping results for sex determination in horse embryos, without serious threat to survival. Guignot presented her results at the 2013 French Equine Research Day, held Feb. 28 in Paris.

“In this (equine) species, in the blastocyst stage (at about six to seven days of embryonic development) … the technique of aspirating trophectoderm cells allows good viability of the embryo, in vitro (in the laboratory) as well as in vivo (in the live horse),” she said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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