Bovine IVF: Mobile lab helps farmers breed perfect calves

Cow reproduction gets shot in the arm through surrogacy brought to the doorstep of farmers in Pune

Written by Garima Mishra | Pune | Published:April 17, 2017 4:07 am
pune, pune cow lab, pune cows, cow lab, cow breeding lab, india news, pune news At these vans, oocytes are turned into embryos over a period of one week. Express

FOR the last few days, the sight of a constantly-parked “ambulance-like” vehicle at the cow farm of Indapur-based Majid Khan Pathan had made his neighbours curious. Little did they know that Pathan himself was curiously involved with an experiment that may change the face of his farm forever.

The “ambulance-like” vehicle was a well-equipped mobile van laboratory in which the oocytes of four donor cows from Pathan’s farm were collected by a team of doctors to be fertilised in the mobile laboratory where, over a period of one week, the oocytes were turned into embryos.

On the ninth day of oocytes collection, the embryos were transferred to the recipient surrogate mother cows. The mobile van laboratory has been developed by JK Trust, which launched the concept of establishing pregnancies from the IVF embryos of selected indigenous cattle breeds in July last year under its initiative JK BovaGenix.

Speaking about the mobile van laboratory, Dr Shyam Zavar, CEO, JK Trust, said, “Currently, we have only two laboratories – in Pune and in Chhattisgarh. So far, we used to collect oocytes and then fertilise them in an incubator at one of our labs. About four months ago, I started thinking about taking the lab to the doorstep of the farmer and let him be a part of the experiment. Thereafter, we started developing this van which took about two months. We have developed four such mobile van laboratories to cater to cow farmers throughout the country.”

Given the size and space of the van, Zavar says, all equipment required in the lab had to be comparatively smaller. Made with an investment of Rs 40 lakh, the mobile laboratory comprises all the equipment required to carry out the IVF (In vitro Fertilisation) experiment, such as — CO2 incubator, laminar flow station, bench top incubator, refrigerator, CO2 cylinder, liquid nitrogen cylinder, centrifuge and embryo freezing machine, among others. “The mobile lab acts as an artificial uterus for nine days. The farmer feels more confident when the lab is at his doorstep. One can imagine his happiness when he will see this embryo turning into a calf because he’s been a witness to the entire procedure,” says Zavar, further pointing out that it is absolutely important to ensure that during the entire nine days of procedure, the van is not moved from its place, otherwise the experiment can fail.

In the experiment carried out at Pathan’s cow farm recently, while 19 embryos were received from Gir breed cow Suraiyya, five embryos were received from Gauri, also a Gir breed cow. Likewise, four embryos each were received from two Khillar breed cows — Rani and Ruby. “We are always trying something new in indigenous cow breeds for their development. This experiment means a lot as it has happened in front of our eyes and thus the satisfaction is much more. Also, given that the Pune lab is nearly 100 km from our farm, there are chances of oocytes getting damaged during the journey,” says Pathan, the owner of Rachana Desi Gosanvardhan Kendra.

Pathan added that due to excess hot temperature, out of the total embryos received, only six embryos have been transferred to six recipient surrogate mother cows, while the rest have been frozen and will be transferred later in cooler months for better results. The sonography of all the six surrogate mother cows will be done after 60 days; that will tell how many embryos have resulted into pregnancies. In a similar experiment that was carried out at Pathan’s farm in November, the transfer of 14 embryos to 14 surrogate cow mothers, resulted in nine pregnancies.

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