A study proposes improving traceability of the culture media used in assisted reproduction

A study proposes improving traceability of the culture media used in assisted reproduction

It has been demonstrated that the nutritional condition of the mother at the time of implantation and in the first stages of pregnancy could have effects upon the future health of the offspring. In this regard, it is not discarded that the different embryo and gamete culture media currently used in laboratories may have different effects upon embryo development and the epigenome

At present, the marketed culture media have highly variable compositions, with between 8-80 different nutrients. It is common for each centre to use different culture media or to combine media. As a result, it is difficult to obtain information or estimate their effects upon development of the embryo. The quality control tests made in animal models only determine whether the medium is effective and complies with the requirements for securing embryo development, but do not contemplate the variables in the case of changes in composition. This makes it difficult to determine the long-term effects upon the health of the future infant or adults.

Nevertheless, in comparison with naturally conceived infants, those born through assisted reproduction techniques are exposed to an increased risk of perinatal problems such as premature delivery, low weight at birth, and possible anomalies of congenital origin. Since the process is enormously complex and depends on a myriad of variables at both clinical level and in relation to the laboratory procedures used, it is very difficult to establish which factors are most relevant in originating possible problems in the offspring. It is therefore essential to have all the information on each medium in order to conduct the studies needed to establish possible correlations. The qualitative and quantitative composition of the gamete and embryo culture medium used is therefore of maximum importance.

According to European Union regulations, manufacturers must report the composition of the culture media they market and conduct clinical monitoring to evaluate their results, though at present it is complicated to know how this system works. The authors of the study therefore conclude that assisted reproduction centres should keep a record of the clinical information related to the culture media they use, in order to allow monitoring studies of the offspring obtained through the use of such media - making these data public through the corresponding national registries. The authors also advise the manufacturers to report the changes they introduce in their culture media and in their composition, and to establish systems for monitoring validation and re-evaluation of the use of the different media.

Time to take human embryo culture seriously.
Sunde A, Brison D, Dumoulin J, Harper J, Lundin K, Magli MC, Van den Abbeel E, Veiga A.
Hum Reprod. 2016 Oct;31(10):2174-82. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dew157.
Original article

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