First Offspring from Super-Cooled Pig EmbryosBy
Agricultural Research Service
scientists have produced the first live offspring from super-cooled
pig embryos, potentially creating new opportunities for the
$11-billion-a-year swine industry.
The super-cooling technology, called vitrification, cools the
embryos in about 3 seconds in liquid nitrogen without forming ice
Rapid cooling to prevent ice crystals from forming in or around the
embryos while stabilizing the cells is crucial to being able to store
them and have them develop into live pigs later, according to John R.
Dobrinsky, a research physiologist at the ARS
and Gamete Physiology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
Since the mid-1980's, the animal industry has routinely used very
cold temperatures to preserve embryos of several livestock species,
especially cattle. But because of physiological and cellular
differences in pig embryos, the technology wasn't available to the
The new vitrification technology opens the door to global expansion
for the swine industry. It will allow producers to import and export
valuable breeding stocks and unique germplasm without worrying about
shipping live animals.
What does the breakthrough mean for consumers? Dobrinsky says it
will enable production and conservation of a more genetically superior
stock, ensuring safe, wholesome and healthy pork products for the
An in-depth story on this research appears in the March issue of
Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also on the World
Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: John R. Dobrinsky, USDA-ARS
and Gamete Physiology Laboratory, BARC-East, Building 200, Room
22, Beltsville, MD 20705, phone (301) 504-8134, fax (301)504-5123,