Vitrification of embryos >300 µm in diameter requires puncture of the glycoprotein capsule, although the size of the hole compatible with embryo survival is unknown. Forty-five day-7 or -8 embryos were punctured using a 30-µm glass biopsy pipette mounted on a micromanipulator (n = 20) or manually with either an acupuncture needle (∼100-µm diameter -hole; n = 10) or a microneedle with a <1 µm tip to produce a ∼30-µm diameter hole (n = 15) before transferring to recipient mares; further 12 embryos were punctured with either the acupuncture needle or microneedle before being cultured in vitro for 48 hrs (n = 3 per puncture group) or transferred to recipient mares and recovered 48 hrs later (n = 3 per puncture group). No pregnancies resulted from the 10 embryos punctured with the acupuncture needle, whereas 15 of 20 (75%) and 10 of 15 (67%) punctured on the micromanipulator or manually with the microneedle resulted pregnancies. Neither acupunctured nor microneedle-punctured embryos repaired their capsules in vitro. The acupunctured embryos also failed to repair their capsule after 48 hrs in vivo and subsequent uterine flushing yielded numerous capsular vesicles. The microneedle-punctured embryos did repair their capsule in vivo. Puncture with the microneedle opens the way for development of a manual method to vitrify equine embryos.
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