NZ welcomes first foal born using intracytoplasmic sperm injection

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Sienna is New Zealand’s first foal produced by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
Sienna is New Zealand’s first foal produced by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). © Anna Rattray/Cheleken Photography

The first foal in New Zealand to be born using the vitro fertility treatment intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has been welcomed by Te Hihi Farms at Karaka.

Warmblood mare Wonette (Papillon Rouge x Sonette/Cavalier) had been unable to carry a pregnancy because of damage sustained from a previous foaling. After many failed attempts, ICSI became her only option. She was bred using semen from showjumping stallion Bravado Ego Z.

Dr Lee Morris, of Waikato company EquiBreed NZ, has been working on perfecting the technique for several years. She said the birth of the chestnut filly named Sienna 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.”

The ICSI procedure used is very similar to that used in humans and involves recovering eggs from the mare’s ovaries while she is sedated. The eggs are cultured in the laboratory until they are ready for fertilisation. Then a tiny amount of semen is washed and a single sperm cell selected for injection into each egg. The resulting embryos are cultured for 8-10 days in the laboratory before being transferred to a surrogate mare or frozen for future use.

That ICSI can now been done in New Zealand has opened up a whole new world for Kiwi breeders.

“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,” Morris said.

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