Faster fertilization and cleavage kinetics reflect competence to achieve a live birth after intracytoplasmic sperm injection, but this association fades with maternal age

Live birth–competent embryos present faster fertilization and cleavage morphokinetics than embryos that do not achieve this outcome, a difference that, however, narrows with maternal age.

VOLUME 115, ISSUE 3, P665-672, MARCH 01, 2021


Mariabeatrice Dal Canto, Ph.D., Alessandro Bartolacci, B.S., Diana Turchi, B.S., Daniela Pignataro, Ph.D., Monia Lain, B.S., Elena De Ponti, B.S., Claudio Brigante, M.D., Mario Mignini Renzini, M.D., Jose Buratini, Ph.D.



To assess the relationship of early developmental kinetics with competence to provide a live birth and the impact of maternal age in this context.


Retrospective cohort study including 4,915 embryos, of which 1,390 were transferred and provided a clinical outcome paired with morphokinetic data; 168 of them resulted in a live birth (LB), and 1,222 did not (NLB). Early morphokinetic parameters were compared between LB and NLB embryos from patients stratified into two age groups (<37 and ≥37 years), and between embryos at the same competence group from patients aged <37 and ≥37 years. The association of morphokinetic parameters with live birth was tested by univariate and multivariate analyses.


Fertility clinic.


The study population included 1,066 patients undergoing autologous intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles with fresh single (SET), double (DET) or triple (TET) embryo transfers on day 2 or 3. Of them, 669 patients produced NLB embryos and 134 produced LB embryos.



Main Outcome Measure(s)

Fertilization and cleavage morphokinetic parameters and live birth.


In the total patient population, all morphokinetic parameters were achieved earlier in LB compared with NLB embryos. The same was observed in patients aged <37 years (P<.015), but not ≥37 years. Except for the t8 (time at which an 8-blastomere embryo was identified), all morphokinetic parameters were reached earlier in LB embryos from patients aged <37 years compared with LB embryos from patients aged ≥37 years. Univariate analysis revealed that earlier occurrence of all morphokinetic parameters was associated with live birth, although only earlier t2 (time at which two separate and distinct cells were identified) was associated with live birth independently from maternal age in the multivariate analysis.


Despite its retrospective nature and performance in a single IVF center, this study presents novel data indicating that embryos competent to provide a live birth display overall faster early developmental kinetics compared with embryos that do not achieve a live birth after transfer, a difference that, however, narrows as maternal age advances. The findings suggest that fertilization and cleavage morphokinetic parameters may constitute valuable references for embryo selection strategies aiming to improve live birth rates, specifically before advanced maternal age while holding limited usefulness in advanced maternal age.

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