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Commercial application of embryo transfer in pig breeding is dependent on the storage of embryos. The aim of this study was to assess the embryo quality of in vitro-produced blastocysts after 3 h liquid storage at 37°C in CO2-free medium by evaluating morphology, in vitro developmental capacity and apoptosis. Blastocysts at days 5 and 6 post-fertilization were randomly allocated to the storage group (HEPES-buffered NCSU-23 medium including bovine serum albumin in a portable embryo transport incubator at 37°C) or a control group (porcine blastocyst medium in a conventional culture incubator). Thereafter, blastocysts were evaluated for morphology and stained to assess apoptosis straight after the 3 h storage period or after a further 24 h conventional incubation. There was no significant difference between the storage and control group after 3 h storage and the further 24 h conventional incubation for any of the parameters, nor for apoptosis straight after the 3 h storage. Embryos that reached the blastocyst stage at day 5 showed less apoptosis (6.6% vs 10.9%, P = 0.01) and a trend for a higher rate of developmental capacity (70.6% vs 51.5%, P = 0.089) than embryos reaching the blastocyst stage on day 6. In conclusion, in vitro-produced porcine blastocysts can be stored for 3 h at physiological temperature in transportable incubators using a CO2-independent medium without compromising quality.
Sperm motility and viability of cryopreserved semen vary between boars and straws, which influences the outcomes of in vitro embryo production (IVEP). However, progressive motility is usually not considered during IVEP. The aim of this study was to assess fertilization with a 500:1 and 250:1 ‘progressively motile sperm to oocyte’ ratio on IVEP outcomes using semen from three Duroc and three Landrace boars. Frozen–thawed sperm was centrifuged through a 45/90% Percoll® density gradient and sperm quality parameters were assessed. In vitro matured oocytes were fertilized at the two ratios, a portion was stained 10–12 h after start of fertilization to analyze fertilization and polyspermy, while the remaining zygotes were cultured up to day 7. The 500:1 ratio resulted in a higher fertilization and blastocyst yield on day 6 compared with the 250:1 ratio, but no effect of ratio was observed for polyspermy, cleavage rate or blastocyst cell number. Individual differences between boars were observed for fertilization, cleavage and blastocyst rates, but not for the other IVEP outcomes. In conclusion, a higher fertilization and blastocyst yield was obtained with the 500:1 ratio compared with the 250:1 ratio, while polyspermy level was consistent across ratios. Differences in IVEP outcomes were still observed between the individual boars although adjusted for progressive motility. Promising blastocyst yields and high total blastocyst cell counts were obtained with sperm from both breeds.
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