Back to search

FFL-JA-Forskningsmidlene for jordbruk og matindustri

Vitrification of pig embryos for the worldwide dissemination of genetics using embryo technology

Alternative title: Frysing av griseembryoer for internasjonal distribusjon av genetikk

Awarded: NOK 0.65 mill.

The VitriPig project will start the 1st of April 2023. During the first months we will build up practical knowledge with an embryo vitrification methods that is used in some human IVF clinics. This method has also been shown to be succesfull for freezing pig embryos, but we have no experience yet. We will then perform non-surgical embryo transfers with the vitrified embryos and we aim to obtain the first live born piglets in Norway after freezing. Furthermore, we will start up lab activities and perform in vitro embryo production. Those embryos will be used for training and for our first studies that will look into the effect of cryoprotectant concentrations and timing during different freezing and washing steps. Embryo survival will be analysed and we have to investigate parameters of interest. Protocols will be established for those parameters, possibly in collaboration with Wageningen University and Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences. Additionally, the collaboration with Wageningen University will be set up to start the matematical modelling of freezing and thawing curves based on the experiences we have collected during the first freezing trials.

As an international pig breeding company, Norsvin is dependent on exporting genetics worldwide. Currently, this is mainly achieved with export of semen doses, but it slows down the customers’ progress by at least 50% compared to export of live animals. However, distribution of genetics through live animals has several challenges, so as a global breeding company we see distribution through embryos as the future solution. We will then obtain a faster increase in genetic gain, higher biosecurity and minimized risk of disease transmission, increased animal welfare and reduced carbon footprint, which all together positively impacts sustainable food production. However, implementation of embryo transfer in pig breeding is still a challenge, among other things due to the large number of embryos required for a successful embryo transfer and synchronization of the recipient sows. The ability to vitrify embryos will solve those challenges and will make it possible for us to distribute genetics through embryos. Therefore, the objective of this project is to establish and optimize pig embryo vitrification protocols that eventually can be used on farm. Within this project we will first gain knowledge about vitrification of embryos to obtain the first live born piglets after non-surgical transfer in Norway. Furthermore, we will optimize freezing and thawing curves by using mathematical modelling for achieving the highest possible embryo survival so that the protocols can be used on farm. In vitro embryo quality parameters will be assessed from the most optimal protocols, followed by an in vivo non-surgical embryo transfer study with vitrified embryos. If results are not promising, changes will be made again with the mathematical modelling. This project will provide us with new expertise, and it will contribute to the final implementation of embryo technology in pig breeding. This will greatly increase the competition advantages of Norsvin as a global pig breeding company.

Funding scheme:

FFL-JA-Forskningsmidlene for jordbruk og matindustri