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IVF And AI Experts Link Up To Boost Sperm Success

by 5m Editor
16 November 2007, at 1:36pm

LEEDS - Scientists at the University of Leeds, renowned leaders in the field of reproductive biology, have joined forces with JSR Genetics in a project that could improve embryo implantation rates - in pigs and eventually humans.

Pregnapause, a Techtran/IP Group funded spin-out company led by Dr Nicolas Orsi, Dr Nadia Gopichandran and Mr David Brooke have teamed up with Dr Grant Walling, JSR's Director of Research and Genetics. The now seven-strong team commenced their collaboration in October 2007, after discovering valuable correlations between their two fields of research. Dr Orsi explains, "As part of the isolation procedure essential to both AI and IVF treatments, sperm is separated from seminal fluid and we believe that, following this, the incidence of embryo rejection may be higher. It seems that some components of seminal fluid are capable of suppressing the female's immune system, enough to allow embryos to implant into the uterus, whilst still retaining the ability to fight infection. Our research focuses on finding the agents responsible. If we can isolate and supply them by other means we could create a more receptive environment in the uterus and improve implantation rates."

Whilst the recipients of AI and IVF treatments are worlds apart, the techniques and potential problems are very similar, certainly in the initial stages. Dr Grant Walling of JSR believes that the research will have valuable applications in commercial pig units and comments: "Failed embryo implantation currently limits both pregnancy rates and litter size in today's pig units. Even small improvements in the number of piglets born alive per litter will have a massive economic impact, allowing the industry to remain competitive on the international market. Working with Dr Orsi and the team at the University of Leeds will give added impetus to our own programme. Once the right active agents are identified, we can start work together on designing and perfecting the means of delivering it."

Working in closely related fields, the two groups of scientists had become aware of each other's interests, and were introduced by mutual colleagues. Dr Orsi continues, "We already knew of JSR's reputation as active leaders in porcine semen technology and were impressed with the level of Quality Control over semen collection and processing. Given our interest in the reproduction of farm animals, we were very keen to collaborate with a commercial entity, where productivity remains a key issue. Improving implantation rates to increase the number of piglets born alive per litter is a very worthwhile commercial goal. We are also looking further ahead to seek out partners in the cattle industry - where most females produce just one offspring - all the while bringing the model closer to humans."

Dr Walling believes the technology could provide a huge boost for UK pig producers "Currently, using AI, JSR achieves an average of 11.7 piglets born alive per litter in its own commercial pig production units. If successful, a delivery mechanism such as a pessary could, without increasing the major input costs - such as feed - result in an extra piglet per litter, providing a significant boost for farmers' profitability".

5m Editor