A breakthrough sexed semen sorting process, which has been granted a US patent for use within the cattle breeding industry, could dramatically reduce the cost of sexed semen.

Canadian company Microbix Biosystems has developed a new method to sort female X chromosomes cells from male Y chromosome cells. The technology, known as LumiSort, could increase the ratio of female calves born by using laser technology to “zap” passing male chromosomes, which also speeds up the sexing process.

The technology is reported to reduce damage to female X chromosomes and is claimed to yield 2.5 times more usable sperm. Conception-rates using LumiSort technology are expected to be almost identical to levels achieved by conventional semen.

The current method of sexing semen involves sperm cells moving in a fluid stream at high velocity. A laser detector examines each individual cell and removes any unwanted Y chromosomes using high pressure fluid squirts. The process is slow and results in damage to the X female cells.

The amount of usable sexed semen is therefore reduced compared to conventional semen processing methodology. Conception rates using sexed semen have been widely reported as being up to one third lower than conventional semen as a result of processing damage. As a result, sexed semen is more expensive than conventional semen and is invariably used on a restricted basis such as on ET donor cows and pedigree show animals.

The potential for the new sexing process is immense according to Microbix CEO William Gastle. “Livestock experts have stated LumiSort may become a market-shifting technology that creates a new model for artificial insemination. The process may change practices within the dairy and beef industries on a global-basis.

“LumiSort has strong patent protection. We anticipate LumiSort sexed semen to be commercially available in the marketplace within the next 24 months,” he said.

The technology is expected to complement and accelerate genomic programmes as well as embryo-based reproductive strategies. Breeders will be able to determine the precise sex of animals, in accordance with the requirements of their herd breeding programme, at a commercially available price.