Embryo transfer in mice is a crucial technique for generation of transgenic animals, rederivation of contaminated lines, and revitalization of cryopreserved strains, and it is a key component of assisted reproduction techniques. It is common practice to use females only once as surrogate mothers. However, their reuse for a second embryo transfer could provide hygienic and economic advantages and conform to the concept of the 3Rs (replace, reduce, refine). This investigation evaluated the potential for a second embryo transfer in terms of feasibility, reproductive results, and experimental burden for the animal. Virgin female ICR mice (age 8–16 wk) were used as recipients for the first embryo transfer. Immediately after weaning of the first litter, a second surgical embryo transfer was performed into the same oviduct. Virgin females of comparable age to the reused mothers served as controls and underwent the same procedure. The first surgery did not affect the success of the second embryo transfer. Histological sections showed excellent wound healing without relevant impairment of involved tissues. We observed no differences in pregnancy rates or litter sizes between the transfer groups. Most importantly, we found no change in behavior indicating reduced well-being and no increase of corticosterone metabolites in the feces of surrogate mothers reused for a second embryo transfer. We conclude that a second embryo transfer in mice is feasible with regard to reproductive and animal welfare aspects.
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Vol. 86 • No. 1