MSU researchers study in vitro fertilization using cows


LANSING TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Most women would agree it’s not the most flattering connection, but women actually have a lot in common with cattle.

Researchers at Michigan State University are using the similarities between cows and women to find out more about something that’s been making families complete for the last 40 years: in vitro fertilization.

Cows at MSU’s Dairy Teaching and Research Center will be used in a study about in vitro fertilization. (March 14, 2017)

Dr. James Ireland, an MSU researcher and professor of reproductive physiology, and his colleague Dr. Keith Latham were recently awarded a $1.65 million grant to take a closer look at one of the key techniques of IVF using cows at MSU’s Dairy Teaching and Research Center.

“The cow’s had a long history in biomedicine, if you will, not just from a reproductive standpoint,” said Ireland, who has been at MSU for 40 years.

The cows are more like humans than you might realize. They have a long reproductive cycle similar to that of women. All of the cows in Ireland’s study will have a low egg reserve — just like women who seek fertility treatments.

“One of the major objectives of the study is to find out whether or not the doses of hormones that are used during ovarian stimulation may themselves be detrimental to survival of the embryo,” Ireland explained. “There’s no real way a clinician knows whether the amount of hormone they’re giving is excessive or not for optimal outcomes, which would be the birth of a live child.”

cow, in vitro fertilization
A researcher at MSU. (March 14, 2017)

Just like women undergoing IVF, the cows in the study will receive ovarian stimulation injections and have their eggs removed from their body. The eggs will be fertilized in a lab and eventually placed back inside the cow’s womb.

The research will happen over the next four to five years. The data collected could be applied to women for more efficient IVF treatments.

The grant funding the study is unique because it was jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.