Commercial Equine In Vitro Embryo Production: What to Expect

Factors that contribute to a breeder’s likelihood of getting a live foal using intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
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Commercial Equine <em>In Vitro</em> Embryo Production: What to Expect
Stout said his program sees 76% pregnancy rates after transfer of ICSI embryos and a greater than 55% chance of getting a live foal. | Photo: iStock
In vitro (in the lab) production of equine embryos is a field that has grown rapidly over the past few years thanks to increasingly promising pregnancy rates.

“The ability to salvage the genetics of subfertile animals, use scarce or expensive semen very efficiently, and/or produce embryos from competing mares without having to put them through a full insemination and embryo recovery cycle has proven attractive to sport horse breeders and triggered many practices to consider offering OPU-ICSI (ovum pickup and intracytoplasmic sperm injection) as a commercial service,” said Tom Stout, DVM, PhD.

Stout runs one of those commercial embryo production programs at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. Based on his experience, he described factors that can contribute to a client’s likelihood of success during a presentation at the 65th Annual American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 7-11, 2019, in Denver, Colorado.

Stout’s lab collects oocytes (eggs) via OPU and packages and transports them to Avantea—an assisted reproduction center in Italy—for ICSI, a form of in vitro fertilization where a single sperm is injected directly into an egg. Since he started the program in 2014, his team has performed 1,600 OPUs and produced more than 2,200 embryos. They’ve achieved a 70% pregnancy rate from 1,145 embryo transfers

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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