Evidence for placental abnormality as the major cause of mortality in first-trimester somatic cell cloned bovine fetuses.
Additional Document Info
The production of cloned animals is, at present, an inefficient process. This study focused on the fetal losses that occur between Days 30-90 of gestation. Fetal and placental characteristics were studied from Days 30-90 of gestation using transrectal ultrasonography, maternal pregnancy specific protein b (PSPb) levels, and postslaughter collection of fetal tissue. Pregnancy rates at Day 30 were similar for recipient cows carrying nuclear transfer (NT) and control embryos (45% [54/120] vs. 58% [11/19]), although multiple NT embryos were often transferred into recipients. From Days 30-90, 82% of NT fetuses died, whereas all control pregnancies remained viable. Crown-rump (CR) length was less in those fetuses that were destined to die before Day 90, but no significant difference was found between the CR lengths of NT and control fetuses that survived to Day 90. Maternal PSPb levels at Days 30 and 50 of gestation were not predictive of fetal survival to Day 90. The placentas of six cloned and four control (in vivo or in vitro fertilized) bovine pregnancies were compared between Days 35 and 60 of gestation. Two cloned placentas showed rudimentary development, as indicated by flat, cuboidal trophoblastic epithelium and reduced vascularization, whereas two others possessed a reduced number of barely discernable cotyledonary areas. The remaining two cloned placentas were similar to the controls, although one contained hemorrhagic cotyledons. Poor viability of cloned fetuses during Days 35-60 was associated with either rudimentary or marginal chorioallantoic development. Our findings suggest that future research should focus on factors that promote placental and vascular growth and on fetomaternal interactions that promote placental attachment and villous formation.