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  • Miranda Reiman, Angus Media

The Angus Conversation: Treating male infertility with science, fish genomics and more

Other industries look at the cattle business and envy what Angus has: a commonly held database with a high percentage of breeder participation.  

Sometimes an outside perspective helps one appreciate what they have.  

“There’s a lot of kingdoms that have been built around the genetics and the value of the genetics, so there’s not this cooperative approach like [Angus breeders] have,” says Debbie Plouffe, vice president at the Center for Aquaculture Technologies (CAT), noting most genomic tests in her industry are generally privately developed and held. 

In the most recent episode of The Angus Conversation, Plouffe and Kristin Brogaard, chief scientific officer for Inherent Biosciences, offer a look at technology that is shaping improvements in everything from human medical care to feeding a growing world population.  

“You need to be preparing now for the challenges that you’re going to have in the future,” Plouffe says, noting there’s great disparity in fish husbandry practices across the globe. So, some are ready to use genetics to ramp up production, others still need to dial in nutrition and management, she notes.  

The guests shared challenges that sound familiar, such as barriers to data collection and applying genetic tools across diverse production environments. 

Brogaard’s work surrounds epigenetics, or the environmental and biological factors that cause variation in male sperm cell DNA.  

“Epigenetics is universal across animal kingdoms, meaning epigenetic and gene control exists no matter what species you are,” she says. There’s surely crossover between male fertility work and bull fertility. Today, both generally start with a semen analysis which is not as descriptive as she’d like. “I would love input here, but it sounds like that’s pretty common in this field, too, where semen analysis isn’t that highly predictive of fertility success. So, you’re missing something molecularly going on.” 

Brogaard’s team is taking what’s historically been a “trail and error” method and turning it into a more targeted approach to fertility solutions, she says. Some of her foundational work is based on a sample size of 1,400 participants.  

“One thing that has really struck me about the beef industry is the magnitude of just the numbers of cattle ... and then also the really, really extensive phenotyping that you have on both the male and the female and the baby, which are things that we can’t do.”  

To hear the entire episode, visit The Angus Conversation anywhere you get your podcasts, or follow this direct link:  

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