By Patty Wilber
I went to Fort Worth, Texas, the other week to sell H, but on the way, we stopped over so that Rachel’s good barrel mare, Bubbles, could have eggs harvested for ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Here is how that works!
The ultra sound probe goes in the anus, so the doc can see the ovaries on the computer screen. A long hollow needle goes in the vagina and penetrates into the body cavity. Water is flushed in to (not into) the ovary and is sucked out via the needle. The doc works the needle around and into the egg-containing follicles, hopefully freeing eggs, that are sucked out with the water via the needle. The eggs are collected in a vial and then later examined.
The procedure took about half an hour, and Bubbles, being a pretty stoic mare, was not that bothered by it. The next mare, a big BIG time money earning barrel horse, on the other hand, WAS bothered and needed to be lightly sedated.
Bubbles gave up 12 eggs. After examination, these eggs were immediately sent to a lab that Rachel had previously contracted with. The lab obtained the sperm Rachel had purchased and that very same day, the lab injected one sperm into each of the eggs.
Five of the 12 eggs fertilized successfully, and two of those developed into 5-6 day old embryos (blastocyst stage) that were frozen in liquid nitrogen.
At a later time, a recipient mare can receive one of the embryos, and if all goes well, will give birth to a Bubble’s baby. That will probably happen next year as it is too late in the season this year. Overall, the ICSI success rate is only 10-15%. One or two of 10 eggs will successfully be fertilized, implanted and result in a live foal.
Well! That is a lot of trouble and money to go through! But Bubbles is 18 and still running lightly, so she is not in a position to carry her own foal. Plus, this way, there was a chance to get multiple offspring in a single season.
It was really interesting to observe the egg collection.
If you want more detail about the whole procedure, try this article (and you will see where I found the video).