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LSU Ag Center Program Focuses On Helping Animals Reproduce; Graduates Assist Humans, As Well

The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center's reproductive physiology research program started with one main focus -- helping farm animals have babies efficiently and at the least cost to livestock producers.

But along the way, this research program, which was established in 1973 under the direction of Dr. Robert Godke, has gained a worldwide reputation for its contributions to the development of assisted reproductive techniques. And some of its graduates now are assisting humans, as well.

"The picture was very different 25 years ago than it is today," Godke said. "We had artificial insemination as a tool and were beginning work with embryo transfer."

Today, both artificial insemination and embryo transfer are widely used throughout the world. New tools include cryopreservation, which means freezing embryos for later use, and in vitro fertilization, which means fertilization in a test tube or on a dish under a microscope.

Godke and his graduate students have played a major role in bringing about the practical use of all of these techniques. In the mid-1970s, his program, along with others, helped perfect non-surgical techniques for transferring embryos into surrogate mothers. Their original work was with cattle, but they have since developed procedures for sheep, goats, pigs and, most recently, horses.

Another milestone for the program was with embryo splitting, which produces genetically identical twin animals from a single embryo. In 1982, researchers in the program produced their first sets of identical twin calves, or clones, from this technique.

One of the newest assisted reproduction procedures is called ICSI, which stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. With this approach, a tiny pipette is used under a microscope to inject a sperm into an egg, or oocyte.

One of Godke's Ph.D. students, Richard Cochran, worked for two years perfecting a way to do
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Contact: Linda Foster Benedict
lbenedict@agctr.lsu.edu
225-388-2263
Louisiana State University Agricultural Center
30-Nov-1998


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