Equine Embryo Transfer Techniques Compared

Researchers identified a 90% pregnancy rate in mares impregnated using the Wilsher embryo transfer technique and a 70% pregnancy rate in mares treated using traditional embryo transfer protocols.
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equine embryo transfer techniques compared
Equine embryo transfer is a delicate and an expensive process. Not only is the embryo itself fragile, but the traditional technique can be challenging even for experienced veterinarians. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Ryan Ferris

Equine embryo transfer is a delicate and an expensive process. Not only is the embryo itself fragile, but the traditional technique can be challenging even for experienced veterinarians. To help reduce the risk of pregnancy failure, scientists developed a transfer technique that’s more likely to lead to a healthy pregnancy regardless of the technician’s experience level. But does that new method improve pregnancy rates? Researchers recently compared the two to find out.

The “Wilsher” technique, in which forceps grasp the cervix with the aid of a vaginal speculum, results in a higher successful pregnancy rate of up to 10% compared with experienced practitioners using the conventional technique and up to 30-40% with less experienced practitioners, said Juan Cuervo-Arango, DVM, PhD, of the Utrecht University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in The Netherlands.

“I think the success of this technique is due to the fact that veterinary surgeons spend less time fiddling around with the cervix trying to pass the embryo transfer pipette as they do during the conventional technique, because the forceps straighten the cervix and makes it easier to pass the pipette,” Cuervo-Arango said. “It’s not totally foolproof, since the operator needs to know about the anatomy of the cervix and know how much force to apply to the forceps, but of course it requires much less experience

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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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