LMU Students Share Collaborative Research Project Updates

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Ana Weiland
Photo: University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Eight veterinarian students from Lincoln Memorial University (LMU), in Harrogate, Tennessee, spent their summer collaborating with researchers in the University of Kentucky (UK) Department of Veterinary Science in Lexington. Each student focused on a specific project and then reported on their project during an LMU Student Research Presentations day at the end of July at the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Ana Weiland completed her summer project, “Non-invasive Method for Sexing Equine Embryo During Embryo Transfer,” with Alejandro Esteller-Vico, PhD, assistant professor, in the reproductive health laboratory at the Gluck Equine Research Center.

Embryo transfer involves flushing an embryo from one, often valuable, mare and transferring it to a recipient mare’s uterus. This procedure is becoming common in most breeds except for Thoroughbreds (The Jockey Club still prohibits any type of assisted reproductive techniques in Thoroughbred breeding). It has been helping increase the number of foals from mares that are in competition or having reproduction problems. Weiland’s project examined whether embryos obtain any genetic material before it is transferred into the recipient mare.

She said current methods of finding gender determination, such as an ultrasound, are not ideal because they’re not useful until too far along in the pregnancy. Current preimplantation genetic diagnosis use a micromanipulator to biopsy the trophectoderm (outer layer of the embryo), but her team recently began using the micromanipulator to sample the blastocoel fluid (which contains the embryo’s DNA), which is not yet an established method but is expected to help the team determine how much DNA/RNA is present in free fluid within the embryo

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