12:00 – 12:30 – Dr. Katrien Smits, uGent

Vitrification of equine immature oocytes

Cryopreservation of immature equine oocytes offers great advantages for research purposes, for clinical application and for the conservation of genetics of valuable or endangered species. However, the success rate of this technique is low in the horse. We recently reported the birth of the first foal resulting from a vitrified immature oocyte which was matured in vitro, fertilized by ICSI, cultured up to the blastocyst stage and transferred to a recipient mare (Equine Veterinary Journal, doi: 10.1111/evj.12747). The study was performed to improve the vitrification protocol for immature equine oocytes. The results showed that (1) partial removal of the cumulus cells surrounding the oocyte, (2) a high concentration of cryoprotective agents and (3) a short exposure time to the cryoprotective agents may be the key factors for successful embryo development after vitrification.

About dr. Katrien Smits

Katrien Smits graduated as a veterinarian in 2006. She started a PhD at the department of Reproduction, Obstetrics and Herd Health of the Faculty of Veterinary medicine in Ghent on the in vitro production of equine embryos by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). This resulted in the first ICSI-foal in the Benelux and Katrien defended her PhD in 2010. She is currently employed at Ghent University as a postdoctoral researcher of the Research Foundation Flanders to continue her work on assisted reproduction in the horse. Her research focuses on the embryo-maternal interaction during early pregnancy, ICSI, embryo culture, genetics and oocyte vitrification in the horse.

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