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Theriogenology. 2003 Jan 1;59(1):151-70.

Embryo technologies in the horse.

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  • 1Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.


Recent studies demonstrated that zwitterionic buffers could be used for satisfactory storage of equine embryos at 5 degrees C. The success of freezing embryos is dependent upon size and stage of development. Morulae and blastocysts <300 microm can be slowly cooled or vitrified with acceptable pregnancy rates after transfer. The majority of equine embryos are collected from single ovulating mares, as there is no commercially available product for superovulation in equine. However, pituitary extract, rich in FSH, can be used to increase embryo recovery three- to four-fold. Similar to human medicine, assisted reproductive techniques have been developed for the older, subfertile mare. Transfer of in vivo-matured oocytes from young, healthy mares into a recipient's oviduct results in a 70-80% pregnancy rate compared with a 30-40% pregnancy rate when the oocytes are from older, subfertile mares. This procedure can also be used to evaluate in vitro maturation systems. In vitro production of embryos is still quite difficult in the horse. However, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has been used to produce several foals. Cleavage rates of 60% and blastocyst rates of 30% have been reported after ICSI of in vitro-matured oocytes. Gamete intrafallopian tube transfer (GIFT) is a possible treatment for subfertile stallions. Transfer of in vivo-matured oocytes with 200,000 sperm into the oviduct of normal mares resulted in a pregnancy rate of 55-82%. Oocyte freezing is a technique that has proven difficult in most species. However, equine oocytes vitrified in a solution of ethylene glycol, DMSO, and Ficoll and loaded onto a cryoloop resulted in three pregnancies of 26 transfers and two live foals produced. Production of a cloned horse appears to be likely, as several cloned pregnancies have recently been produced.

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