Catching Up with Dr. Reuben Mapeltoft

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Published on: June 30, 2017

The Early Days and School of Hard Knocks

Most of what I know about bovine embryo transfer, I learned by making a mistake. Matt has convinced me that I should bare my soul, so here goes.

In the early days, we were using Rusch catheters to collect embryos. They were a great improvement over Foley catheters, but they were very expensive. Because of cost, we resisted autoclaving; we simply washed and dried and rinsed with alcohol and sterile saline just before use. At an early IET meeting, Peter Elsden convinced me we should be sterilizing our catheters with ethylene oxide, which we subsequently did. That year, our pregnancy rates dropped to around 30%. We then learned that certain plastic syringes were also a problem and we were using syringes to collect embryos and hold media. We never did figure out our problem, but our pregnancy rates recovered the following year. We subsequently did a lot of work with ethylene oxide as a means of sterilizing equipment, and we found that there are a lot of ways you can kill embryos with it. I am told it also kills people.

Uli Schneider from Hanover, Germany, taught us how to cryopreserve embryos in 1980. We were using glycerol in those days and so we had to move embryos through six dilutions after thawing and before transfer. Uli had a little device with a gear mechanism that he used to aspirate very small quantities of medium, and he left it with us to use when we were moving embryos through glycerol dilutions. I was not very familiar with it, having used a 1-mL syringe and a tom cat catheter most of the time. In any case, I decided Uli knew best, and one morning I thawed a set of embryos for transfer on farm. While I was in the midst of transferring embryos from one solution to the next, something happened in the lab and my attention was distracted. When we finally had things sorted out, I looked down and couldn’t find the embryos. I had aspirated them all up into the gear mechanism in the aspiration device. It wasn’t until I had made several other mistakes like this that I decided that I had to keep unnecessary people out of the lab.

When I was first involved with this business, I often found myself in difficult situations, and instead of saying “no, we can’t do this,” I carried on. I have often referred to this as how I lost embryos.

On one occasion, I flew to Vermont to collect a cow for a colleague, and when I arrived at the farm I realized that all I had was a cow and no help or facilities. I finally ended up setting up my microscope on the milk tank. Things were not very stable, but I did find a nice morula and an unfertilized egg. Then things started to go wrong. I upset the egg dish on the milk tank and spilled its contents. I aspirated all the media I could find on the surface of the milk tank and found one structure, the unfertilized egg. On another occasion, we had to set up outside on a beef farm with no table or chairs, so we set a sheet of plywood on two straw bales. With the first cow, we recovered more than 20 excellent embryos, and I was feeling pretty good as I was collecting the second cow, which also had responded very well. Then, things went downhill. My technician came up to me and whispered, “How do I get the embryos out of the straw?” I responded, “What? We are not ready to transfer yet.” You guessed it, she wasn’t talking about loading straws. On yet another occasion, we set up a table for our microscopes in a large calving barn and used trimming chutes to restrain cows for the embryo recovery procedure. One cow went a little crazy and wrecked the trimming chute and started running around the calving barn; everyone scattered while she headed for the table with the microscopes (and embryos). This story has a happy ending; she sniffed the first microscope, turned around, and ran the other direction.

I have learned some things about nitrogen tanks in this business as well. We used to travel great distances, often late at night, as we drove from one farm to another, and the roads were frequently not very good. On one occasion, I hit a tremendous pothole as I was driving much too fast on a back road; I was lucky I didn’t hit the ditch. When I arrived at my destination I unloaded my equipment, and although it really didn’t register, I noticed that there was frost at the top of the nitrogen tank. I imagined how the nitrogen had been sloshing around on those rough roads (I actually had one tip over once). In any case, the following morning, I realized the tank was dry. There wasn’t just one collection in that tank either. I learned a very real lesson: if you see frost, get worried.

These are just a small sample of mistakes I have made over the years. However, I did learn through the school of hard knocks. I challenge others to top mine.

Reuben
Reuben J. Mapletoft
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4
Cell: (306) 222-6152
Fax: (306) 966-7159

Understanding Cervical Disc Herniations and What To Do About Them

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Published on: June 30, 2017

By Meredith Griffin PT, DPT

C6/7 Posterior

In the image you can see what many hope to never see on their MRI, a spinal disc herniation or herniated nucleus pulposis (HNP). For decades it was believed that if you had an HNP you were doomed for surgery and all you could do is hope that the results of the surgery were good (decreased pain, improved sensation, etc). Our society has developed a one track mind in wanting a quick fix and thinking that the only way to manage a problem like this is to go under the knife and cut it out. More recent research has shown that alt-hough there my be “abnormal” findings on various imaging, that does not justify surgery despite the fact that the many surgeons use this as their rational. In fact, we are finding that it is more abnormal to not have changes on imaging, or what are being called by some experts as “wrinkles on the inside.” If you have any “abnormal” findings on your x-ray, MRI, CT scan, etc, I would like to congratulate you on being just like the vast majority of the human population. These are considered age-related changes and are normal. Any-thing from arthritis to stenosis to disc herniations are all part of the normal aging process and are a result of being mobile organisms. Imaging studies have found that arthritic changes have been noted and can begin in the human body as early as the mid-20’s. More studies have also found little to no correlation between find-ings on imaging and patient reports of symptoms and pain levels. The problem becomes when pain impedes our lifestyles.

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Service to AETA Internationally

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Published on: March 21, 2017

Service to AETA Internationally

by Matthew Dorshorst, DVM: Cooperator Committee Member

As a member of the AETA, I was asked to participate on the Cooperator Committee. I did not have any idea what I was in for. I began to realize this when the committee met with a group of people from Russia at World Dairy Expo in 2010. The Russians were interested in learning more about the American dairy and beef industries and importing embryos.

Several members of the committee were at that meeting. Three of us were decidedly younger than the rest of the representatives. When the discussion turned to who would travel to transfer embryos and conduct information seminars, I assumed it would not involve me. To my surprise, they said they wanted me to go, as well as Dr. Michael Pugh and Dr. Nate Dorshorst. We could hardly say no. (more…)

Catching Up: Dr. George Seidel

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Published on: September 13, 2016

gespic3I started working at Colorado State University 45 years ago. I am theoretically retired, but hired back for 6 hours/week on an hourly basis. Theory notwithstanding, I still work essentially full time at the University including a lot of writing and travel, some teaching and mentoring, reviewing research proposals and manuscripts for journals, conducting experiments to synchronize ovulation, etc.

Sarah and I also have a registered Angus seedstock operation on our cattle ranch, currently with over 350 mother cows and 100 bred heifers plus clean-up bulls and bulls for sale. All of these cattle are on experiments of one sort or another in collaboration with faculty at the University We also have a complicated research project with over 50 cross bred heifers per year which we breed with sexed semen, and fatten and slaughter after first calf, with the idea that most heifers replace themselves with a heifer calf; thus the herd is self-sustaining with no need for a conventional cow herd.

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Catching Up: Dr. Clifton Murphy (Doc Murph) at 90!

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Published on: June 17, 2016

Murphy_PhotoI’m writing in response to AETA’s questions regarding how I am doing. I shall try to answer these below.

I am old, and I do not like it. A Biblical quote: “Old men shall dream dreams and the young shall have visions.” I am dreaming dreams about the future. I was born July 9, 1926.

What am I the most proud of:

  • My family
  • My friends: you get to choose your friends—one of the most important choices one can make
  • My military service: no hero—medical service USS LST
  • My older brother: Lt. Dean Murphy, USMC Iwo Jima—resting in Jefferson Barracks
  • My twin brother: injured in World War II
  • My education: BSc Agri, DVM Mo ‘52, MSc Colo. ’60, Post Postdoc, U MO, current
  • My honorary life membership in AETA.
  • The Clifton N. Murphy Scholarship fund in Animal Reproduction–U MO.

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Catching Up: Chris Keim

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Published on: March 28, 2016

KeimA Few Things I Have Learned

  1. Nothing good can happen to embryos sitting on the countertop. International travel has taught me to appreciate and be more tolerant of other cultures and religions. Everyone should take the time to visit Israel for a few days. Dr. Hornickel and I have worked together and relied on each other for nearly 40 years. Now we need each other to remember people’s names.
  2. I have gained so much respect for the full-time ET vets that developed their businesses from scratch. I’m sure they experienced the many risks and satisfying moments that we did.
  3. We shouldn’t need incentives to do quality work, but extra motivation comes from owning some donors of your own, or having clients pay you on a per-pregnancy basis.
  4. I have learned a lot about myself and others around me following a life-threatening event.

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Catching Up: John F. Hasler

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Published on: December 16, 2015

Hasler_catching_upFive Things I Am Most Proud Of

Having been asked to provide some personal material for this column, I decided to follow Bob Rowe’s earlier submission as a template. As you will see, Bob and I share some notable career similarities, both chronologically and subject wise.

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Catching Up: Joe Lineweaver (An interview with Matt Iager)

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Published on: September 23, 2015

joe lineweaver photoJoe Lineweaver has had a long history with embryo transfer in the United States and has had a positive effect on our industry and contributed greatly to the AETA.

He began working with embryos in 1964, 51 years ago. His graduate work at Washington State University early on included rabbits, rats, goats, and cattle.

Over the years, it really has been a “dynamic ride,” says Lineweaver.

Early on, developing superovulation protocols was the challenge and finding the correct ration of FSH and LH was tough. LH was used more in the early days. Creating a balance of 300 osmolality was the next hurdle to improve performance. Then came the surgical transfers, and nonsurgical technique, and direct transfer. He pointed out that they never froze embryos early on, and the correct number of recipients was needed for the right number of embryos. The transition from glycerol to ethylene glycol to vitrification has been exciting. Superovulation and embryo transfer have taken new levels to gene transfer and gene splicing, which will continue to effect genetic advancement.

Donor selection, as Lineweaver points out, has really been fun to watch. Early on the farmer chose his favorite cow to flush. Or, maybe his neighbor was doing embryo transfer and wanted to experiment too. But with production data and now genomics, the donor selection process has taken on all new levels of individual and herd goals from herd improvement to marketing worldwide.

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Catching up: Bob Rowe

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Published on: June 10, 2015

Bob_RoweFive things I am most proud of:

1. From 1974 to 1981, I worked for the US Holstein Association on technical assistance missions to Hungary, travelling to that country 13 times. (My liver still has not recovered from the overconsumption of pálinka, a plum brandy.)
2. As a graduate student, our group at the University of Wisconsin Department of Veterinary Medicine (I was the senior author) published the first paper on successful nonsurgical collection of bovine embryos in 1976, and in 1980 the first successful nonsurgical collection of bovine embryos.
3. I participated in the first export of frozen embryos to the Ukraine in 1989. My son, Ryan, missed his high school graduation ceremony to accompany me and assist in the transfer of 103 embryos over a three-week period of time. During that year I spent two months out of the country, in Ukraine, Japan, and Brazil).
4. When I was chairman of the AETA Cooperator committee along with USLGE, we accomplished the first export of embryos into China.
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