Derived from the blood of pregnant horses, "pregnant mare serum gonadotropin (PMSG)", is a hormone frequently used in farming and the breeding of mice and rats with specific genetic mutations. It is used in starting and synchronising the ovulation cyclies of of pigs, cattle and goats. In mice, the hormone is used to cause the release of an exceptional amount of egg cells at one time. It is currently isolated exclusively from live pregnant horses, and it has been reported that from these pregnant “production” mares up to 10 litres of blood are taken weekly until around 4 months of pregnancy. These horses will go through numerous production cycles within their lifetime. It has been uncovered that some South American farms do not adhere to any minimal animal protection standards, like excessive blood draw until anemia, forced tying and restraining of the semi-wild animals, no veterinary care and forced abortion. Furthermore, even European production locations were judged to be non-compatible with European law. Calls to ban the import of PMSG have been raised and discussed at EU level. Animal-free alternatives for PMSG in farming have been explored but until now no viable and financially acceptable alternate protocol has been made widely available. Thus, to end the practice of using pregnant horses for production of the hormone, an alternative product, produced without the use of animals (in-vitro), is urgently needed. With this funding we will be able to continue our ongoing work to make an animal-free alternative and investigate the possibilities to make it widely available and cost-effective for both farming and animal-research in Switzerland and internationally.
Professor Thorsten Buch (University of Zurich)
Dr Martina Loesle (University of Zurich)
Professor Ulrich Bleul (University of Zurich)