Center For Reproductive Technology Founded

The possibility of human cloning and other advancements in assisted reproductive technologies have recently captured a niche on the news agenda and focused ethical issues for a national debate. But these same advancements have the capability to significantly boost Virginia's multi-million dollar agricultural animal industry.

In an effort to better organize university expertise and equipment in this area, the Center for Reproductive Excellence Using Advanced Technology and Endocrinology (CREATE) has been established at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

The CREATE Lab serves as an inter-disciplinary educational, research, and clinical resource that is unique throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, according to Dr. Bill Ley, professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, and co-author of the grant which funded the center.

Three distinct generations of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) with fresh or frozen semen, was initially described about six decades ago, according to Ley. The second, embryo transfer (ET), is about four decades old. The third, which includes embryo sexing, oocyte recovery and in vitro fertilization (IVF); gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT); zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT); and inntracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), is less than 20 years old.

The fourth generation of assisted reproductive technologies is now on the horizon and entails embryo cloning, transgenic embryo production, nuclear (DNA) transplantation or transfer, and parthenogenesis (auto-fertilization).

“We believe that the enhanced faculty collaboration, more effective utilization of laboratory space, equipment resources, and research support, and intensified graduate student training in this area will propel Virginia Tech into the 21st century as a nationally and internationally recognized leader in assisted reproductive technologies,” said Ley.

University, college, and private sector funding has enabled the lab to acquire the advanced equipment required to support the work of the CREATE lab, which includes a cryogenics unit for computer-controlled sperm, oocyte, and embryo freezing, a specialized micromanipulation microscope system, a video-enhanced laparoscope, a large capacity liquid nitrogen storage tank, and other equipment.

VMRCVM faculty on the CREATE team include Drs. Bill Ley, Tom Baily, Beverly Purswell, Jim Bowen, Nikola Parker, and John Dascanio; all board-certified specialists in reproduction by the American College of Theriogenologists (ACT). College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty include reproductive physiologists Drs. Richard Saacke and Frank Gwazdauskas.

CREATE lab services available to clients through the Large Animal Clinic of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital include semen freezing, embryo transfer, oocyte recovery, maturation, and culture, IVF, GIFT, ZIFT, and ICSI, according to Ley.

Ley believes the assisted reproductive services the CREATE LAB can provide for animal industries in the Commonwealth possess considerable economic impact. The state's equine industry, for example, is valued at about a billion dollars a year. More than $10 million of that is spent on areas related to equine reproduction.

The CREATE lab will not only help improve animal reproductive efficiency in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Ley said the laboratory hopes to provide assisted reproductive support for animals in developing Third World economies.

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