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After taking her first physiology class at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1974, Hinrichs realized that physiology was what she had wanted to learn about all along. “What I wanted to learn was physiology, but I didn’t even know what the word ‘physiology’ meant at that time,” she said. “I kept trying to find it until I got into veterinary school.”

The Road to Research Like many veterinary schools at the time, the students in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis were primarily male. “I specialized in equine medicine my last year, and out of the 13 people on the equine track, I was the only woman,” Hinrichs said. But, being the only woman in her field of study at UC Davis and one of few women in her graduating class did not deter her. Hinrichs graduated from veterinary school in 1978 with the intention of becoming an equine practitioner; however, she was not the kind of applicant that practitioners with open equine positions were looking for. “The fact that I was a woman really got in the way because nobody wanted to hire a woman as an equine practitioner back then, so I got a job in a mixed-animal practice in northern California,” she said. “However, I was disappointed in the work; it was using only a small amount of what I had learned in veterinary school. I wanted to be a veterinarian all my life, and when I became one, I wasn’t happy.” Things would soon change for Hinrichs. “I had a friend who went to the University of Pennsylvania as a visiting scholar in reproduction,” she said. “He wrote me and said, ‘I think you would like it here,’ so I applied for the large animal residency there. As soon as I started in academia, I knew that was exactly where I belonged because people were trying to be the best they could and learn the most they could.” Hinrichs pursued a Ph.D. in comparative medical sciences at the University of Pennsylvania after she completed her residency studying the hormonal requirements for pregnancy in the horse and equine oocytes—unfertilized egg cells. After earning her Ph.D., she took a faculty position in reproduction at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “My position at Tufts was an interesting change, because during my time at the University of Pennsylvania, I was in a strong and active section of equine reproduction. The section was probably one of the strongest in the world at that time,” Hinrichs explained. “Then, I went to Tufts, and I was the only equine reproduction faculty member. That was a very different environment. Luckily, I was able to get some money to do my research—and luckily there was tissue available.” After moving to Massachusetts, Hinrichs married and had two daughters. At the urging of a colleague at Texas A&M, she applied for an open physiologist position at the CVM in 1998. She recalled her excitement over the seemingly endless possibilities in research Texas A&M offered. “I came to Texas to interview for the position, and it was amazing,” Hinrichs said. “Texas A&M helped me see the light. It was like being in a stall and then being released out into a pasture; there were so many more resources

What is in vitro fertilization?

Commonly referred to as IVF, in vitro fertilization refers to having the process of fertilization—that is, the combining of a sperm and a mature oocyte, or unfertilized egg—occur outside of the body in the laboratory. In standard IVF, an egg is placed with sperm together in a dish, and one sperm must penetrate the egg. Under the right conditions, an early embryo can develop. If the process is successful, the embryo is then transferred into the uterus for further development. Although this process has been successful in many species, it has not had repeatable success in equine species because the sperm do not penetrate into the egg.

What is ICSI?

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) involves manually inserting a single sperm into a mature oocyte via a pipette. This produces a fertilized egg, and if the laboratory provides the right conditions, an early embryo can develop. In theory, only one sperm is needed for each egg, so ICSI provides a method by which numerous offspring can be produced from a small store of frozen sperm. This process has proved successful for assisted reproduction in horses and Texas A&M is home to one of the world’s few laboratories that can successfully perform this procedure.

What is cloning?

In reproductive cloning, researchers remove all the DNA from a mature oocyte. Scientists collect a single somatic cell, any cell except sperm and eggs, from the donor animal. The DNA from the somatic cell is then transferred through a needle into the egg that has had its own DNA removed. Given the right laboratory conditions, an early-stage embryo can develop and will be placed into a mare’s uterus for further development.

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CVM Today - Winter 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...

CVM Today - Winter 2017  

A semi-annual publication for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical...