Estonian scientists succeed in growing equine embryo in lab

Sport horse (illustrative).
Sport horse (illustrative). Source: Unsplash

August next year, the first foul is expected to be born from an embryo fertilized in a test tube in the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ). No other Baltic or Scandinavian lab has succeeded in growing equine embryos, while global trading in them is rising, the daily Maaleht reports.

Assisted reproduction technologies (ART) are well developed in humans and cattle and are gaining momentum also in the equine industry. Estonia has performed embryo transplants in the past, but the embryo was either purchased from abroad or washed out of the donor embryo.

The use of ART technologies to create a fertilized equine embryo outside of a mare's body has been limited due to the complexity of the process.

Two years ago, a team at the University of Life Sciences set out to create a test-tube horse embryo from a young sport horse – now the researchers have succeeded in growing a viable embryo, transferring it into a suitable horse and the long-awaited pregnancy is underway, the daily reports.

Only five European companies – the University of Ghent in Belgium and four private companies – grow equine embryos in a laboratory, although there is a high demand for it from horse breeders worldwide and the embryos are already being sold alongside horses and foals.

The parents of the foal, which is expected to be born in 10 months, are first-class sport horses: the mother is a five-year-old promising sport horse and the semen comes from one of Europe's top stallions who has just won first place at the Laneken riding competition in Belgium, the surrogate mare is a 12-year-old former sport horse who was born in the Netherlands and now lives at Luunja Stables in Estonia.

The horse's owners, Sven Šois and Urmas Raag, hope the foal to grow up to be an Olympic horse.

Elina Tsopp, a junior researcher in breeding and biotechnology at the University of Life Sciences, an embryologist. Source: ETIS

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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