OPU & ICSI Services

Tomlinson Equine are pleased to be offering Ovum Pick Up (OPU) & ICSI services starting this Autumn!

What is OPU?

Ovum Pick Up (followed by ICSI and Embryo Transfer) is a procedure where oocytes (eggs) are recovered from your mare’s ovaries. The recovered oocytes are then sent to a technically competent lab (located in Europe) where they are matured and subjected to “in vitro” fertilisation (ICSI) with semen from a stallion that is chosen by you. Any viable embryos produced after a period of 7-9 days can be frozen and transported back to the UK for subsequent transfer into a recipient mare.

Why Choose OPU?

Ovum Pick Up (OPU) is beneficial for a number of reasons including in high-level competition mares with busy schedules as it avoids the necessity for repeat scans & time involved with AI & ET. Mares with a history of uterine infections, oviduct problems or other infertility issues can also benefit from OPU/ICSI to increase their fertility. It is also very useful where semen is limited from a particular stallion due to infertility or death, since only a fraction of a frozen semen straw is required for the ICSI procedure. Another application of OPU & ICSI is where frozen embryos are desired since ICSI-produced embryos have a much higher post-thaw pregnancy rate compared with conventionally flushed embryos. It is also possible to sex ICSI-produced embryos before freezing and transferring. Ideally though, OPU should only be performed if other methods of Artificial Breeding have been tried and were unsuccessful due to the slightly increased risk of complications (e.g. peritonitis or abdominal pain) compared to other breeding methods.

The Procedure

OPU is performed on a day case “walk-in” basis. The only involvement your mare will have in the breeding process is where she will come to our centre at a scheduled day and time for the procedure, which usually takes a few hours as well as a scan or 2 prior to the OPU session. Using a specially adapted ultrasound probe (with an aspiration needle attached) placed in your mare’s vagina, the follicles on your mare’s ovaries are aspirated in order to retrieve the oocytes. Since the oocyte recovery rate is never 100%, your mare needs multiple follicles over a certain size in order to proceed with an OPU session. This is established in the scanning session(s) prior to the OPU procedure.

Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is the only method of IVF available in horses and is carried out in specialist laboratories in Europe. The resultant embryos are grown in the lab and if they are of good enough quality to be frozen & transported back to us, we are able to use your own recipient mare to transfer the embryo and carry the pregnancy. We also have a recipient mare herd and can provide recipient mares for hire from transfer through to weaning (prices below).