Research led by Professor Darren Griffin at the School of Biosciences has established that cattle embryos can now be screened for chromosomal disorders, which could improve pregnancy rates, and thence overall food production.
The technology, Karyomapping, was originally designed to detect genetic disorders in human IVF embryos, and it is this technology that has been successfully adapted and applied to cattle.
Utilising Karyomapping for in vitro produced (IVP) cattle embryos allows offspring to be screened in the very earliest stages of development, rather than after birth. Decisions pertaining to the genetic quality of offspring can therefore be made earlier and allow for better quality breeding herds to be established more rapidly than typical selection methods allow for.
Making use of genetically screened cattle embryos means that food production can be more environmentally friendly, more biosecure, and means that individuals can be more efficiently transported to breeding farms around the country (or the world) compared to the use of live animals.
The researchers report the birth of the calves to be born following use of the technique, including the first named Crossfell Cinder Candy, born on a farm near Penrith.
Professor Griffin said: ‘In-vitro produced embryos are used widely in the cattle breeding industry but this is the first time they have undergone a whole genomic screen beforehand. We have used Karyomapping to screen for genetic merit, as well as the incidence of chromosome disorders, which could significantly reduce the chances of the embryos developing into live-born calves.’
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