Jennifer R. Hughes, Ph.D., Sandra Soto-Heras, Ph.D., Charles H. Muller, Ph.D., David J. Miller, Ph.D.
Albumin, a vital protein in cell culture systems, is derived from whole blood or blood products. The culture of human gametes and developing embryos for assisted reproductive technology (ART) uses albumin of human origin. Human serum albumin (HSA) is derived from expired blood obtained from blood banks. This blood has been stored in polyvinyl chloride bags made clear and flexible with di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). However, DEHP can leach from the bags into stored blood and cofractionate with HSA during albumin isolation. DEHP and its metabolite, mono-ethylhexyl phthalate, are known endocrine disruptors that are reported to have negative effects when directly supplemented in media for in vitro fertilization using gametes from a variety of animals. Therefore, the contamination of ART media with DEHP and mono-ethylhexyl phthalate through HSA supplementation may affect the outcomes of ART procedures. Although the embryology laboratory is strictly monitored to prevent a wide variety of contaminations, phthalate contamination of HSA has not been broadly examined. This review outlines the function of HSA in ART procedures and the production of HSA from whole blood. Finally, the review highlights the effects of acute phthalate exposures on gametes during in vitro procedures. Phthalates found in human serum albumin are present in media used for ART at levels that impair developmental endpoints in model species.