Biomechanics and developmental potential of oocytes and embryos
Throughout biology there are examples of form and structure dictating function. Oocytes and preimplantation embryos are no different, and biomechanics may provide a noninvasive method for oocyte and embryo selection.
Volume 108, Issue 5, Pages 738–741
Jonathan Kort, M.D., Barry Behr, Ph.D.
The high incidence of multiple embryo transfers is evidence of the need for better methods of embryo selection. Additionally, methods to determine the reproductive competence of unfertilized oocytes are critically needed to inform the growing population of patients undergoing fertility preservation. The ideal method of oocyte and embryo selection would be noninvasive, inexpensive, and able to be incorporated into embryology workflow with minimal disruption. Methods to assess the biomechanical properties of cells offer many of these traits, and there is a growing body of evidence in multiple cell types demonstrating the biomechanical properties of cells are reflective of a cell's intrinsic health. The associations with these properties are not mere coincidence, as many of the biomechanical properties are critical to cellular function. The biomechanical properties of oocytes and embryos undergo a dynamic, characteristic transformation from oocyte maturation through blastocyst formation, lending itself to biomechanical assessment. Many of the assessments made by embryologists, from ease of microinjection during intracytoplasmic sperm injection to degree of blastocyst expansion, are direct proxies for cellular biomechanics. Newer, objective and quantitative methods of biomechanical assessment are being applied to oocyte and embryo selection, with early use supporting their application in assisted reproduction.