IVF Embryo Production
A procedure that has now overtaken conventional embryo flushing worldwide in terms of embryos produced and is following the same trend at Embryo Plus.
Embryo Plus has proudly partnered with Vytelle, a renowned company with more than 14 laboratories worldwide at this stage.
Through Vytelle’s development of superior media (containing no foetal calf serum) and innovative new techniques and procedures, problems initially associated with IVFEP, such as large calves at birth or poor conceptions with frozen embryos, were eliminated. The Vytelle system also requires no hormones being used on the donor animals.
In Vitro Embryo Production (IVEP) in cattle consists of the following components:
- Aspiration of oocytes (eggs) from the donor animals (Ovum Pick Up OPU)
- Fertilization of oocytes in laboratory (IVF)
- Culturing of embryos in laboratory (IVC)
- Transfer OR freezing of embryos
Aspiration of oocytes:
The donors are aspirated (OPU) in order to harvest the oocytes from the ovaries. Ultrasound is used to visualize the ovaries and a guided needle is then used to puncture the follicles on the ovaries in order to retrieve the oocytes with suction.
Fertilization of oocytes in laboratory:
The oocytes are matured for 24 hours after the OPU’s, before they are fertilized in the laboratory.
- Some batches or specific bulls’ semen do not fertilize well with IVF, even though the semen may be of good quality when used for normal AI’s.
- If possible, it is a good idea to test semen intended for future use in IVF programs, using trial runs on oocytes obtained from abattoirs.
- If possible, semen from more than one bull may also be used at the same time in order to minimize the risk of poor fertilization, especially in cows with a lot of oocytes.
- A straw of semen can also be used to fertilize up to 7 donor’s oocytes, depending on the quality of the semen.
- IVFEP allows for the use of sex-sorted semen, even though lowered embryo production is sometimes seen.
Culturing of embryos in laboratory:
After fertilization, the embryos are cultured for 7 more days in incubators in the laboratory under very specific and strictly sterile conditions.
Transfer or freezing of embryos:
The embryos are graded and the grade 1 embryos may be transferred “fresh” into recipients, or frozen. Recipients are synchronized prior to transfer according to a hormone program supplied to the client by Embryo Plus. Any extra embryos will be frozen and stored for later use.
IVF-embryo production – current standards using Vytelle’s system
- Embryos obtained per aspiration done 4-5
- Conception with fresh embryo transfers 50 – 60%
- Conception with frozen embryo transfers 40-50%
- Can be repeated every 2 weeks
- Currently mostly invoiced per embryo successfully produced
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- Eggs can be harvested from donors that are 2-3 weeks after calving, up to 3.5 months pregnant , so can fit in easier within a normal breeding season
- No hormones required for donors
- Can be repeated more frequently than conventional programs
- Donors with functional ovaries, but with other problems related to the reproductive tract, such as blocked fallopian tubes or pathology of the uterus, could still do well with IVF programs.
- Ovaries of cows that were sent to the abattoir, or just recently died, can still be used to produce embryos for a last time
- Sex sorted semen can be used
- Less semen required; 1 straw of good quality can fertilize the eggs of up to 7 donors
- Less “labour intensive” for the breeder, in terms of the donors, since a hormone program and AI is not necessary with IVF programs.
- Expensive, sensitive laboratory required, mostly non-mobile, which makes the logistics challenging for doing the OPU’s and lab work on-farm in remote areas or in countries without IVF labs
- Some countries currently do not allow imports of IVF produced embryos.