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Jock K Findlay, Michael K Holland and Bob B M Wong

Reproductive sciences have made major contributions to human health, livestock production and environmental management in the past and will continue to do so in future. In collaboration with other disciplines, reproductive scientists can provide scientifically valid information that will allow the rational development of policies on topics such as declining fertility in men and women, livestock breeding efficiencies, climate change, pest animal control, wildlife management and environmental influences. It is imperative that the reproductive sciences are recognised by the community and policy makers as important contributors to future health and welfare of animals, humans and the planet if these potential benefits are to be captured and utilised. Reproductive Health Australia (RHA) was launched recently to advocate for reproductive biology as a national health, economic and social priority. This short review provides a snapshot of why it is imperative that reproductive science receives the recognition that is due to it and provides examples of how it can contribute to the future of the planet.

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Natalie I Alexopoulos, Poul Maddox-Hyttel, Pernille Tveden-Nyborg, Nancy T D'Cruz, Tayfur R Tecirlioglu, Melissa A Cooney, Kirsten Schauser, Michael K Holland and Andrew J French

In ruminants, the greatest period of embryonic loss coincides with the period of elongation when the embryonic disc is formed and gastrulation occurs prior to implantation. The impact of early embryonic mortality is not only a major obstacle to the cattle breeding industry but also impedes the application of new reproductive technologies such as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). In the present study, days 14 and 21 bovine embryos, generated by either in vitro-production (IVP) or SCNT, performed by either subzonal injection (SUZI) or handmade cloning (HMC), were compared by stereomicroscopy, immunohistochemistry, and transmission electron microscopy to establish in vivo developmental milestones. Following morphological examination, samples were characterized for the presence of epiblast (POU5F1), mesoderm (VIM), and neuroectoderm (TUBB3). On D14, only 25, 15, and 7% of IVP, SUZI, and HMC embryos were recovered from the embryos transferred respectively, and similar low recovery rates were noted on D21, suggesting that most of the embryonic loss had already occurred by D14. A number of D14 IVP, SUZI, and HMC embryos lacked an epiblast, but presented trophectoderm and hypoblast. When the epiblast was present, POU5F1 staining was limited to this compartment in all types of embryos. At the ultrastructural level, SCNT embryos displayed abundant secondary lysosomes and vacuoles, had fewer mitochondria, polyribosomes, tight junctions, desmosomes, and tonofilaments than their IVP counterparts. The staining of VIM and TUBB3 was less distinct in SCNT embryos when compared with IVP embryos, indicating slower or compromised development. In conclusion, SCNT and to some degree, IVP embryos displayed a high rate of embryonic mortality before D14 and surviving embryos displayed reduced quality with respect to ultrastructural features and differentiation markers.