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Equine Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection Program

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Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

Purpose of the Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection Program

The intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) program is offered at Texas A&M as a means of establishing pregnancies from oocytes (eggs) recovered from donor mares. Using ICSI, oocytes are injected with individual sperm from a donor stallion, and the resulting embryos are allowed to develop in the laboratory for approximately one week. Developed embryos are then shipped to a private embryo transfer facility for transfer to a recipient mare, as for standard embryo transfer.

This advanced reproductive technology is appropriate for mares that are unable to become pregnant themselves (i.e., mares with chronic uterine disease, cervical lacerations, or other damage to the reproductive tract that prohibit the mare from conceiving or supporting an embryo in the uterus for any length of time). The procedure can also be attempted when pregnancies are sought from limited sperm supplies.

The procedure should only be used on mares that are not suitable candidates for routine embryo transfer (i.e., mares in which viable embryos are seldom recovered from standard uterine flushing), or, if done to obtain foals from a given stallion, for sperm that cannot be utilized effectively with standard insemination techniques. Because of the expense of the technology involved and the amount of labor associated with ICSI, foals produced from this program should be valuable enough to justify the increased effort and expense to produce offspring. Before participating in the ICSI program, it is important for each owner/lessee to know the regulations of their breed registry regarding the possibility of registering any resulting foals.

Overview of the procedure

ICSI Foal

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is a recently developed technique in which oocytes (eggs) of a valuable broodmare (donor mare) are fertilized in the laboratory. The oocytes are recovered from the mare's ovarian follicles, and then cultured to induce maturation, mimicking the developmental changes that would occur in an oocyte during the day or so immediately before ovulation. This maturation process generally takes 12 to 30 hours, depending upon the stage of maturation of the recovered oocytes.

Matured oocytes are injected with individual sperm from the desired stallion. For this procedure, one sperm is injected into the cytoplasm of each oocyte under a high-power microscope. The resulting fertilized oocytes are cultured in the laboratory for 7 to 10 days, to allow development into blastocysts, that is, embryos suitable for transfer to a recipient mare. Embryos will be shipped to a private embryo transfer facility for transfer to recipient mares.

In donor mares, oocytes are typically removed from all follicles on the ovary once every two weeks, using a transvaginal ultrasound-guided technique with the mares under sedation. This procedure is performed at the Large Animal Teaching Hospital of Texas A&M University (TAMU). Multiple oocytes are generally obtained during each session. Alternatively, only the one large follicle preparing to ovulate may be aspirated, to recover a maturing oocyte; again, this may be performed approximately once every 2 weeks.

This contract with TAMU includes recovery of oocytes, fertilization, embryo culture and shipment of resulting embryos.

All charges related to the transfer of resulting embryos to recipient mares will be billed to you, the client, by the embryo transfer facility performing the transfer and are not included in this contract.

Anticipated results

ICSI FoalWhen transvaginal aspiration of all follicles is performed, we typically recover oocytes from 50% of the follicles aspirated. In 2013, on average around seven oocytes were recovered per aspiration. About 65% of these oocytes are expected to mature in the laboratory (average of four mature oocytes to be injected with sperm). We anticipate a 20% rate of blastocyst development if the sperm is from a fertile stallion, and report a 79% pregnancy rate per transferred embryo in 2013. However 20% of these resulted in embryo loss, typically before 30 days, therefore, our expected rate of ongoing pregnancies after embryo transfer is currently 65%.

Benefits of the program

This program (fertilization and embryo development in the laboratory) has some benefits over oocyte transfer (surgical transfer of matured oocytes to the oviducts of inseminated recipient mares). The major benefit is that it avoids the need for surgery on the recipient mare, as embryos develop in the laboratory to the stage that they may be transferred to recipients by standard embryo transfer. Because of this, when multiple oocytes are recovered, all oocytes that form embryos may be transferred to separate recipient mares, and thus have the potential to produce a foal. In addition, the ICSI program can utilize equally frozen, fresh, or cooled, transported semen, and sperm of low numbers or low quality.

Young with microscopeCosts for the program

Note: Billing to clients will occur from different parties for the same procedure for specific services as listed below:

  • Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital: The charge for oocyte aspiration at the VMTH at TAMU is approximately $1,200, but can vary with the medications used for each individual mare. In addition, hospitalization of a healthy mare for reproductive procedures at the VMTH is $26 per day. If your mare has other medical issues that warrant medical care or treatment, she may be charged the full hospitalization fee of $60 per day.
  • Non-reproductive charges: The client is responsible for all health costs for their mare while the mare is at Texas A&M, including vaccination, deworming, hoof care, Coggins tests, health certificates, and any medical or surgical costs related to illness or injury.
  • Incidental charges: Costs for semen collection or shipment of semen containers are not covered by the enrollment or other fees, and are charged to the client separately. Costs for routine health procedures, such as vaccination or deworming, and costs for medical or surgical treatment for illness or injury of the donor mare are also not covered by the enrollment or other fees, and are charged to the client separately.
  • Equine Embryo Laboratory fees: Fees are assessed for oocyte recovery from the aspiration fluid and oocyte maturation in the laboratory ($350); performance of ICSI on one or more oocytes ($1250; if additional stallions are used there is a fee of $300 per extra semen sample processed for ICSI); and embryo culture with blastocyst production ($500 per blastocyst produced). If the blastocyst is shipped, there is a $150 charge for shipment. A surcharge ($200) is assessed for cases that entail oocyte collection or sperm injection on weekends/holidays. These fees are charged directly from the TAMU Equine Embryo Laboratory. For other services, please see our price list.

For questions about laboratory procedures (oocyte maturation, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, embryo culture and shipment) or to schedule a mare for clinical aspiration, contact:

Kindra A. Rader, Technician
Equine Embryo Lab
Texas A&M University
300A, VMA Bldg. MS4466
College Station, TX 77840
(979)458-3894 lab
(979)458-2738 fax
(979)219-7543 business cell


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