Optimising the embryo culture system

The ability to culture viable embryos involves more than simply using appropriate culture media. There are many variables that can have an impact on the outcome of an IVF cycle, all of which need to be taken into account in order to optimise pregnancy rates.

Optimising the embryo culture system
  • “The perfect lab”
    Taking into account every variable that can have an impact on an IVF cycle is particularly critical during treatment of infertility since gametes and embryos are extremely sensitive. Precautions have to be taken at every step to prevent toxic or harmful components from entering the culture system. In the “perfect” lab all important parameters are under control. The quality of media, dishes, test tubes and pipettes, the maintenance of incubators and heated stages as well as skilled embryologists and gynecologists are but a few of the pre-requisites that must be in place to obtain viable embryos.

    No chain is stronger than its weakest link. If only one dish is embryo toxic or one medium lacks a vital component, the chain will break and the embryos may not be viable enough to implant.

    In vivo is not in vitroFor gametes and embryos the in vitro environment is a very stressful place to be: temperature and pH fluctuate; there is exposure to light and high levels to oxygen. In addition, nutrients and energy sources may not be correct during all developmental stages.

    For oocytes to fertilise and develop into viable embryos, a prerequisite for implantation and successful pregnancy, in vitro induced stress factors must be reduced to a minimum. One way to reduce embryo stress is to use media with the same basic composition and osmolality for each developmental stage and only add or remove those components the embryo needs or does not need at its specific developmental stage. UV-light and exposure to environmental levels of oxygen cause formation of highly reactive radical oxygen species, ROS. The presence of ROS has a very negative effect on embryo viability and must therefore be reduced as much as possible. Using culture media containing a potent antioxidant is a simple way to achieve lower levels of ROS.
  • G-series™ media
    The G-Series™ media for handling and culture of embryos are developed according to the closer –to-nature principle and provide all nutrients and energy sources needed to support the gametes and embryos specifically for each developmental stage. A potent antioxidant is also added to reduce the action of ROS.

    Non-toxic labware
    One of the most important parameters for success in IVF is the labware used in the laboratory. Dishes for ICSI and embryo culture, test tubes for preparations and aliquoting of media as well as pipettes are all made from different types of plastics. As all types of plastics are potentially toxic to embryos it is very important to use plastic labware that have been tested and developed for IVF purposes. All plastic labware from Vitrolife are designed and extensively tested for use in human assisted technologies.

    Tested and inspected instruments
    All stress factors cannot be avoided since manipulations, such as oocyte retrieval, denudation and ICSI for example, are necessary treatment steps but also for those procedures stress can be minimised by using tested instruments, follicle aspiration needles and pipettes, of good quality. Vitrolife provide instruments that tested for toxicity and all individually inspected to ascertain maximum safety for oocytes and embryos.