Clinical in vitro fertilization is typically done in a stationary culture dish before the embryo is transferred to the uterus. Researchers from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor now discovered that motion of the environment where the embryo is growing is an important variable in improving fertilization rates. Using a specially developed microfluidic mechanism that moves around liquid of the growth environment, they were able to significantly increase pregnancy rates in laboratory mice. The device, the creation of which resulted in the formation of Incept BioSystems of Ann Arbor, MI, is now undergoing clinical trials with human embryos.
[The] device holds early-stage embryos, which are about half the size of the period at the end of this sentence, in a thimble-sized funnel. The bottom of the funnel is lined with microscopic channels that allow fresh nutrient-rich fluid to flow in and waste products out. The funnel sits on rows of Braille pins that are programmed to pulse up and down, pushing the fluids in and out of the channels.
The current the Braille pins generate simulates flows that occurs in the body due to muscle contractions and the motion of hair-like projections called cilia that line the oviducts. In the body, these motions help to push fertilized eggs to the uterus and flush out eggs’ waste products.
Compared with mouse embryos grown in a static dish, those incubated in the new dynamic device were healthier and more robust after four days. Those grown in static dishes contained an average of 67 cells. Those grown in the new device had an average of 109. Control embryos that had matured in the bodies of mice for the same amount of time had an average of 144 cells.
Approximately 77 percent of the rocked mouse embryos led to ongoing pregnancies, compared with 55 percent of the statically-grown embryos. In a control group of mouse embryos conceived naturally and grown within the oviduct, 83 percent led to ongoing pregnancies.
Press release: In vitro pregnancy rates improve with new device that mimics motions in the body …
Abstract in Human Reproduction: Dynamic microfunnel culture enhances mouse embryo development and pregnancy rates
Link: Incept BioSystems…