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J Reprod Fertil Suppl. 1993;48:61-73.

Culture of pig embryos.

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Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh 27695-7621.


Pig embryos can be cultured using a number of different strategies including complex approaches like culture in vivo in a surrogate oviduct (rabbit, sheep, mouse), culture in mouse oviducts in organ culture, and co-culture of embryos with cells in addition to simple approaches like culture in defined media or salt solutions. Addition of serum to medium has been of particular importance where blastocyst development and hatching are required. Pig conceptuses (day 10-15), embryonic discs or cell lines derived from conceptuses can be cultured in complex media like Eagle's minimal essential medium or Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium with serum, although embryonic discs can be cultured in the absence of serum. In contrast, early stage pig embryos (one-cell to blastocyst) are best cultured in simpler media such as those used for mouse embryos. The media that have been used are all relatively similar in composition. They contain salts and one or more energy sources such as glucose, lactate, or pyruvate with BSA as a macromolecular component. Early attempts to culture pig embryos were not very successful, but some embryos did develop to the blastocyst stage. More recent reports indicate a much higher rate of development with relatively little or no change in media composition. Some workers have reported improved development in medium lacking glucose, which is consistent with findings with laboratory animals such as hamsters. Glutamine can serve as the sole exogenous energy source in medium lacking glucose, lactate and pyruvate. Addition of taurine and hypotaurine to culture medium enhances development of pig embryos in vitro. We suggest, where possible, adoption of a standard medium that could be used by different laboratories and, perhaps, with different species. Use of one medium for different species would simplify experimental protocols, enhance studies of comparative embryonic physiology and metabolism, and expedite transfer of information obtained in different species.

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