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Iris Martínez-Rodero Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain

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Judith Diaz-Muñoz Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain

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Adam Z Higgins School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

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Manel López Béjar Department of Animal Health and Anatomy, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain

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Teresa Mogas Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain

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Tania García-Martínez Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain

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In brief

In silico predictions validated in this study demonstrate the potential for designing shorter equilibration protocols that improve post-warming re-expansion and hatching rates of D7 and D8 in vitro-produced bovine embryos. Our results benefit the livestock industry by providing a refined and reproducible approach to cryopreserving bovine embryos, which, in addition, could be useful for other mammalian species.

Abstract

The cryopreservation of in vitro-produced (IVP) embryos is vital in the cattle industry for genetic selection and crossbreeding programs. Despite its importance, there is no standardized protocol yielding pregnancy rates comparable to fresh embryos. Current approaches often neglect the osmotic tolerance responses to cryoprotectants based on temperature and time. Hereby, we propose improved vitrification methods using shorter dehydration-based protocols. Blastocysts cultured for 7 (D7) or 8 days (D8) were exposed to standard equilibration solution (ES) at 25ºC and 38.5ºC. Optimized exposure times for each temperature and their impact on post-warming re-expansion, hatching rates, cell counts, and apoptosis rate were determined. In silico predictions aligned with in vitro observations, showing original volume recovery within 8 min 30 s at 25ºC or 3 min 40 s at 38.5ºC (D7 blastocysts) and 4 min 25 s at 25ºC and 3 min 15 s at 38.5ºC (D8 blastocysts) after exposure to ES. Vitrification at 38.5ºC resulted in D7 blastocysts re-expansion and hatching rates (93.1% and 38.1%, respectively) comparable to fresh embryos (100.0% and 32.4%, respectively), outperforming the 25ºC protocol (86.2% and 24.4%, respectively; P < 0.05). No differences were observed between D7 and D8 blastocysts using the 38.5ºC protocol. Total cell number was maintained for D7 and D8 blastocysts vitrified at 38.5ºC but decreased at 25ºC (P < 0.05). Apoptosis rates increased post-warming (P < 0.05), except for D8 blastocysts vitrified at 38.5ºC, resembling fresh controls. In conclusion, based on biophysical permeability data, new ES incubation times of 3 min 40 s for D7 blastocysts and 3 min 15 s for D8 blastocysts at 38.5ºC were validated for optimizing vitrification/warming methods for bovine IVP blastocysts.

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