Are genotyped embryos the next market opportunity?
The power of genetic information is becoming increasingly relevant to modern cattle breeding practices. An embryo biopsy of just a few cells can now be amplified and genotyped, yielding a huge amount of genetic information. Whilst this technology was once limited to the research lab, a recent collaboration between Matt Barten, founder of embryo biopsy company Embruon, and Neogen’s GeneSeek is now turning the technique into a repeatable and reliable tool for the cattle industry.
How it works: Genomic amplification is a way of multiplying the amount of DNA cellular information, which permits the use of a cellular sample so small that it is less likely to affect the viability of the frozen embryo. The amplified sample can then be genotyped, identifying the embryo’s genetic makeup and sex. It was 2015 when Barten first got an embryo DNA sample “clean enough to amplify” for a genetic profile. From there, Embruon was born.
(DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)
Once collected, Embruon’s bovine embryo samples go to Neogen’s GeneSeek, and within two weeks Barten has the embryo’s genetic data. The genetic information gained allows embryos to be sorted. Barten predicts that this will put more power into the customer’s hands: “he can say genomically, this is where he wants to go with his herd and then use those embryos that best fit that program”. Unused embryos, once genotyped, can also be marketed to other producers where the genetic traits are a better fit.
Stewart Bauck, General Manager at GeneSeek, says it’s phenomenal to see this technology move out of a research setting and into a commercial application: “It’s amazing to realize you can evaluate an animal, even at its youngest state just after conception, and the prediction is an accurate and reliable measure of that animal’s true genetic merit.”
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