A new exciting procedure at SVEC is oocyte (egg) aspiration (OPU) for Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). This procedure is intended for a mare that cannot become pregnant on her own either due to uterine, oviductal, or cervical problems, mares that have only a limited time away from their training schedule, or mares intended to be bred with rare and/or poor-quality semen. SVEC equine veterinarians can perform an oocyte aspiration at any point in the mare’s reproductive cycle and thus can be scheduled at the convenience of the owner, trainer, and veterinarian. In mares for which the goal is to obtain multiple pregnancies in a year, SVEC can perform an oocyte aspiration up to every 2 weeks. The oocytes are aspirated directly from the ovaries of a mare via a trans-vaginal, ultrasound-guided procedure. The oocytes are then shipped to a laboratory where they are matured, fertilized, and allowed to develop into embryos. The resulting embryos are treated as those obtained via traditional embryo transfer and can be directly transferred or vitrified for later transfer or sale.
The oocytes aspirated are fertilized in vitro using a method called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). This means that the veterinarian needs only a single sperm to fertilize a single egg. When using frozen semen, only a portion of a single straw is thawed, allowing for more fertilizations from a single straw. In addition, the sperm is injected directly into the oocyte, which means that stallions with poor fertility and/or poor motility can be used. This new technique allows for the propagation of rare stallion genetics without wasting sperm.