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New semen sexing technology

by 5m Editor
6 September 2006, at 4:28pm

UK - Welsh start-up company Ovasort Limited has signed a global deal with the owners of Danish Bacon for a new genetic technology which could allow pig breeders to pre-select the sex of new-born animals, according to The British Livestock Genetics Consortium.

The Oversort team aims to develop the world’s first low-cost, high-volume sperm separation technology acting at the cell surface, allowing production of male-enriched or female- enriched pig semen.

The technology could dramatically improve the commercial efficiency of supplying breeding gilts (young female pigs) to the pig industry. It would also result in fewer male piglets being born, reducing the requirements for castration or unnecessary slaughter.

Ovasort has now signed an exclusive global licensing agreement for the use of the technology in pigs with Dansk Svineproduktion (Danish Pig Production).The major Norwegian pig-breeding co-operative, Norsvin, will also work with Dansk Svineproduktion on the collaboration.

The present research programme is directed by Ovasort’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Ian Brewis, Lecturer in Proteomics and Bioinformatics at Cardiff University and expert on the study of the sperm cell surface. Ovasort has also just won a prestigious SMART Cymru Award from the Welsh Assembly Government for the commercial development of this potentially very valuable new technology.

The technology will produce specific molecules which bind together X-chromosome bearing (female) sperm cells, leaving unbound Y-chromosome bearing (male) cells free to be filtered from the sample. The bound or ‘agglutinated’ female cells can then be de-agglutinated leaving two separate populations of cells for immediate incorporation into a conventional Artificial Insemination dose of sexed semen. The technology also has potential for exploitation in cattle and other livestock.

Dansk Svineproduktion is part of the newly re-organised Danish pig industry. Head of the Department for Nutrition and Reproduction,Neils Kjeldsen, said: “This patented technology offers enormous potential to livestock farmers, and we are pleased to be collaborating with Ovasort in the pig sector, and to be their licensee worldwide.“

Welsh Assembly Government Bioscience Sector Manager, Dr Bob Wallis, said:“ the Ovasort approach to the discovery of new proteins at the cell surface could be decisive in confirming the existence of sex-linked surface proteins in sperm for the first time and may provide a means of selecting for male or female offspring. It is no surprise that they have attracted such a major collaborator as Dansk Svineproduktion.“

Ovasort CEO Dr Ian Cumming said: “The advances made in the fields of genomics and proteomics, along with the development of ever-more sensitive instrumentation means that we can address the problem of semen sexing in a way which was not possible even two years ago.

Levels of protein detection are now a million times more sensitive, which means that the Ovasort technology can be exploited successfully not only in pigs, but also in cattle and some other farm species on a low-cost, high-volume basis which will deliver a product that the farmer can afford, and we will shortly be seeking a partner for the
cattle sector“.

ThePigSite News Desk