Freezing Equine Embryos is Getting More Practical

Study results revealed promising pregnancy rates with embryos that weren’t frozen in a laboratory but in a barn.
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Freezing Equine Embryos is Getting More Practical
Both embryos that had been frozen immediately in a field setting led to pregnancies that lasted at least 30 days in the horse mares. | Photo: iStock
Researchers have taken a step closer toward making embryo freezing more practical: Study results revealed promising pregnancy rates with embryos that weren’t frozen in a laboratory, but in a breeding barn.

“If we can get the embryos to survive freezing and thawing in a field setting, we can finally offer this technology as a practical option to breeders and even use it to preserve endangered species over the long term,” said Florence Guignot, PhD, of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, during a presentation at the 2017 French Equine Research Day, held earlier this year in Paris.

Equine embryos are far more difficult to freeze successfully than other species because of a particularly large liquid structure that becomes destructive when frozen because of its sheer size. A few years ago, researchers discovered the key to success: removing liquid and forcing the embryo to essentially collapse.

While that marked certain scientific triumph, it still wasn’t a practical solution in breeding centers, Guignot said. The liquid removal process is complex, requiring sophisticated, expensive equipment and intense technical training

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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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