History made with birth of New Zealand's first IVF foal

A chestnut filly called Sienna has made history as the first foal produced by in vitro fertility treatment in New Zealand.

The procedure was carried out by Waikato company EquiBreed NZ and used intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

Company principal Dr Lee Morris had been working on perfecting the technique for a number of years and said the success was a watershed moment for both EquiBreed and New Zealand.

"The ability to produce foals using this fertility treatment puts New Zealand on the world stage. Now it will be possible to breed horses using a single sperm cell and to culture the embryos in the laboratory until they are ready for transfer, " she said.

Mare Wonette with her foal Sienna.
Mare Wonette with her foal Sienna. Photo credit: Supplied/Cheleken Photography.

The imported warmblood mare Wonette is owned by Te Hihi Farms at Karaka and had been unable to carry a pregnancy due to damage sustained from a previous foaling. 

After many failed attempts, ICSI became her only option. 

Sperm was used from showjumping stallion Bravado Ego Z to produce chestnut filly Sienna.

Dr Morris said the ICSI procedure used was very similar to that used in humans and involved recovering eggs from the mare's ovaries while she was sedated. 

The eggs are cultured in the laboratory until they are ready for fertilisation, and a tiny amount of semen is then washed and a single sperm cell selected for injection into each egg. 

Dr Lee Morris has been working on perfecting the technique for a number of years.
Dr Lee Morris has been working on perfecting the technique for a number of years. Photo credit: Supplied/Cheleken Photography.

The resulting embryos are cultured for 8-10 days in the laboratory before being transferred to a surrogate mare or frozen for future use. 

Dr Morris said the fact that ICSI can now be done in New Zealand had opened up a whole new world for Kiwi breeders, as it has already taken the United States and Europe by storm.

"This technique will allow Kiwi breeders to overcome fertility problems in their mares and access better genetics from all over the world as well as produce embryos at a fraction of the cost of a regular embryo transfer programme."

Newshub.

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