Abstract #93

# 93
F. C. Oback1, J. Wei1, L. Popovic1, L. T. McGowan1, J. E. Oliver1, S. R. Delaney1, D. N. Wells*1, 1AgResearch, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Dairy cattle breeding schemes increasingly integrate embryo-based genomic selection to accelerate genetic gain. In contrast to the single offspring produced with conventional animal-based genomic selection, multifactorial IVF between elite parents increases genotypes for selection. Genetically superior embryos are identified from biopsies, and only those with the desired genotypes are transferred. To manage the logistics of such schemes, and enable seasonally born progeny, the cryo-preservation of embryos after biopsy and before embryo transfer is critical. Here, we compare 2 methods of cryo-preserving biopsied Day 7 blastocysts and report results from bisecting blastocysts to increase the number of selected embryos for transfer. Abattoir-sourced oocytes were matured in vitro and fertilized with sperm from a single sire. Embryos were cultured for 7 days in a modified Synthetic Oviduct Fluid medium. Approximately 15 cells were biopsied from the mural trophectoderm of grade 1 and 2 blastocysts in Embryo Hold medium minus BSA, using a micro-surgical blade (Bioniche Animal Health, Athens, GA, USA). Following biopsy, each blastocyst was cultured in Embryo Hold with 3 mg/mL BSA for ~2 h at 38.5°C to allow for re-expansion. In Experiment 1, embryos were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 cryo-preservation treatments: conventional slow freezing or the Cryologic vitrification method (CVM). Slow freezing entailed freezing in 1.5 m ethylene glycol and 0.1 m sucrose. The CVM involved a 2-step vitrification protocol, with 15% of both ethylene glycol and dimethyl sulphoxide in the final solution comprising Embryo Hold, 20% FCS, 1 m sucrose, and 0.1 mm Ficoll (GE Healthcare). Selected embryos were thawed/warmed and transferred in pairs to the uterine horn ipsilateral to the corpus luteum of each synchronized recipient heifer. In Experiment 2, each biopsied blastocyst was individually vitrified using CVM. Following warming, blastocysts were bisected into approximately equal halves. After ~2 h recovery, pairs of demi-embryos were transferred to recipients categorized with either normal (>2.5, <7 ng/mL) or low (≥2, <2.5 ng/mL) plasma progesterone concentrations on Day 5 after oestrus. Embryo survival in both experiments was monitored by ultrasonography of fetal heartbeats up to Day 65 of gestation. Statistical significance was determined using Fisher’s exact test. In Experiment 1, embryo survival on Day 65 was significantly greater with CVM than slow freezing (25/54 = 46% v. 9/54 = 17%; P = 0.002). In Experiment 2, there was no significant difference in the number of fetuses as a percentage of original blastocysts, regardless of normal versus low progesterone levels (13/22 = 59% v. 4/9 = 44%, respectively). In conclusion, vitrification is superior for cryo-preserving biopsied blastocysts, possibly reducing cryo-damage compared with conventional slow freezing, and achieves rates of in vivo development similar to fresh IVF embryos. Embryo bisection potentially provides only a modest increase in the probability of generating a calf from each valuable, genomically selected embryo. Improving embryo competency and other methods of multiplication may maximize this likelihood.