We have demonstrated previously that cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX2), the rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of prostaglandins (PGs), is essential for blastocyst implantation and decidualization. However, the candidate PG(s) that participates in these processes and the mechanism of its action remain undefined. Using COX2-deficient mice and multiple approaches, we demonstrate herein that COX2-derived prostacyclin (PGI(2)) is the primary PG that is essential for implantation and decidualization. Several lines of evidence suggest that the effects of PGI(2) are mediated by its activation of the nuclear hormone receptor PPAR delta, demonstrating the first reported biologic function of this receptor signaling pathway.
The aim of this review is to summarize the information currently available regarding the occurrence of apoptosis in the developing embryo and in the receptive uterus during the peri-implantation period of gestation. Cell death is detected in the inner cell mass of late pre-implantation embryos as the result of an eliminative process that helps trim the embryonic cell lineages of surplus or dysfunctional stem cells. Cell death is also detected in the epiblastic core of early postimplantation embryos, where the process is implicated in the formation of the pro-amniotic cavity, On the maternal side, uterine epithelial cells situated around the attachment site undergo cell death during the initial phase of implantation in order to facilitate embryo anchorage and access to maternal blood supply. Uterine stromal cells closest to the implantation chamber first transform into decidual cells and then commit suicide to make room for the rapidly growing embryo. Although apoptosis is well recognized as a crucial determinant of successful peri implantation development, our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating this process clearly lags behind the comprehension of cell death control in other systems.
Objective: The aims of this study were to compare preimplantation embryo quality in intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) with standard IVF and to examine the impact of age and number and quality of embryos transferred on implantation and pregnancy. Design: Retrospective, controlled clinical study. Setting: Academic tertiary center. Patient(s): We examined 211 consecutive couples undergoing ICSI who were matched with 211 couples undergoing IVF therapy during the same time frame. Intervention(s): In vitro embryo culture. Main Outcome Measure(s): Day 3 embryo quality as judged by the number of blastomeres and morphology scoring. Result(s): Patients undergoing ICSI had a significantly reduced number of embryos with good morphology and cleavage compared with IVF cases. Nevertheless, pregnancy and abortion rates were similar when adjusted by age and number of embryos transferred. Average cleavage status and age were significant predictors of implantation. Women of advanced age had significantly lower embryo cleavage and implantation rates. Conclusion(s):  The cleaving status of day 3 embryos is a valuable, although limited, indicator of implantation outcome.  In vitro fertilization-derived embryos had better cleavage rates and morphology scores than ICSI-derived embryos; however, the implantation potential was similar for both groups.  The age-related decline in implantation rate was associated with impaired embryo growth rates.
In most in-vitro fertilization (IVF)/intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) programmes approximately one ongoing pregnancy in three is multiple. The need to characterize embryos with optimal implantation potential is obvious. We retrospectively examined all of 23 double transfers resulting in ongoing twins, occurring between January 1, 1996 and May 19, 1997. Characteristics of these top quality embryos were absence of multinucleated blastomeres, four or five blastomeres on day 2, seven or more cells on day 3, and ≤20% anucleated fragments. In a subsequent series of 400 IVF/ICSI cycles (out of which 372 were selected for embryo transfer) from May 20, 1997 to July 31, 1998, only women 2 embryos, 11/31 (35%) were multiple. We applied our top quality criteria to the 221 double transfers: 106 transfers with two top embryos resulted in 65 (63%) ongoing pregnancies with 37 (57%) twins, 65 transfers with one top embryo in 38 (58%) ongoing pregnancies with eight (21%) twins. In the group without top embryos, 12/52 (23%) ongoing singletons occurred, with no twins. The corresponding ongoing implantation rates were 49, 35 and 12%. This analysis suggests that single embryo transfer with an acceptable pregnancy rate might be considered if a top quality embryo is available.
Objective: To evaluate the effects of fragmentation and fragment removal in day 3 human embryos on implantation and pregnancy. Design: Retrospective analysis of ETs homogeneous with respect to embryo fragmentation. Setting: A program of IVF-ET. Patient(s): The study population consisted of 2,410 patients. Intervention(s): The degree and pattern of fragmentation were evaluated on days 2 and 3; microsurgical fragment removal was performed after assisted hatching on day 3. Main Outcome Measure(s): Clinical pregnancy and implantation rates. Result(s): The degree and pattern of fragmentation significantly impact pregnancy and implantation. With the application of microsurgical fragment removal before ET, embryos with 6%-35% fragmentation implant with similar frequency. The presence of large fragments (type IV) is detrimental to the developing embryo, whereas localized or small and scattered fragments do not significantly affect implantation. Conclusion(s): The potential of fragmented embryos for implantation is determined partly by the distribution of fragments. Adoption of an embryo classification system reflecting types of fragmentation is advisable. The use of microsurgical fragment removal significantly alters the course of development for some embryos and improves their implanting potential.
There is growing evidence that the pathogenic effects of bacterial vaginosis may not be confined to the lower genital tract. Possible associations with infertility and effects on fertilization and implantation were studied in patients undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. High vaginal swabs taken at the time of oocyte collection were assessed by Gram staining. The prevalence of bacterial vaginosis and of intermediate and normal flora in 301 patients was 25.6, 14.0 and 60.4% respectively. Bacterial vaginosis was more prevalent in patients with tubal (31.5%, n = 149) compared with non-tubal (19.7%, n = 152) infertility (odds ratio (OR) 1.87, CI 1.11–3.18, P = 0.02). Bacterial vaginosis did not have an adverse effect on fertilization rate. Further, no significant difference in implantation rates was seen when comparing bacterial vaginosis (15.8%, OR 1.03, CI 0.66–1.61) and intermediate flora (13.1%, OR 0.82, CI 0.45–1.52) with normal flora (15.5%). Though confidence intervals around the observations were relatively wide, the findings suggest that routine screening for bacterial vaginosis in the hope of improving the success of IVF treatment is not justified. The prevention of complications in pregnancy associated with bacterial vaginosis might be a more relevant indication for screening at the time of IVF treatment, in particular patients with tubal disease, if treatment were shown to be effective for that particular purpose. However, antibiotic treatment before IVF has been shown to be positively disadvantageous for IVF by encouraging other organisms.
A conceptus must successfully attach itself to maternal tissue in order to survive. The process of implantation has never been directly observed in humans, and its timing remains uncertain. 1 , 2 In 1959, results were published of a study of 210 fertile women who had undergone hysterectomy within three weeks after the estimated day of ovulation. 3 In the examination of the uteri, a total of 26 implanted blastocysts were identified. Two blastocysts were identified as being recently implanted (well attached but still on the surface of the endometrium) in uteri removed seven to eight days after the estimated day of ovulation. . . .
A prospective randomized study comparing single embryo transfer with double embryo transfer after in-vitro fertilization or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (IVF/ICSI) was carried out. First, top quality embryo characteristics were delineated by retrospectively analysing embryos resulting in ongoing twins after double embryo transfer. A top quality embryo was characterized by the presence of 4 or 5 blastomeres at day 2 and at least 7 blastomeres on day 3 after insemination, the absence of multinucleated blastomeres and <20% cellular fragments on day 2 and day 3 after fertilization. Using these criteria, a prospective study was conducted in women <34 years of age, who started their first IVF/ICSI cycle. Of 194 eligible patients, 110 agreed to participate of whom 53 produced at least two top quality embryos and were prospectively randomized. In all, 26 single embryo transfers resulted in 17 conceptions, 14 clinical and 10 ongoing pregnancies [implantation rate (IR) = 42.3%; ongoing pregnancy rate (OPR) = 38.5%] with one monozygotic twin; 27 double embryo transfers resulted in 20 ongoing conceptions with six (30%) twins (IR = 48.1%; OPR = 74%). We conclude that by using single embryo transfer and strict embryo criteria, an OPR similar to that in normal fertile couples can be achieved after IVF/ICSI, while limiting the dizygotic twin pregnancy rate to its natural incidence of <1% of all ongoing pregnancies.
Chromosomal abnormalities are responsible for a great deal of embryo wastage, which is reflected, at least partially, in decreased implantation and increased miscarriage in older women. To address this problem the transfer of only chromosomally normal embryos previously selected by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been proposed. We designed a multi-centre in-vitro fertilization (IVF) study to compare controls and a test group that underwent embryo biopsy and PGD for aneuploidy. Patients were matched retrospectively, but blindly, for average maternal age, number of previous IVF cycles, duration of stimulation, oestradiol concentrations on day +1, and average mature follicles. All these parameters were similar in test and control groups. Only embryos classified as normal for those chromosomes were transferred after PGD. The results showed that the rates of fetal heart beat (FHB)/embryo transferred between the control and test groups were similar. However, spontaneous abortions, measured as FHB aborted/FHB detected, decreased after PGD (P < 0.05), and ongoing pregnancies and delivered babies increased (P < 0.05) in the PGD group of patients. Two conclusions were obtained: (i) PGD of aneuploidy reduced embryo loss after implantation; (ii) implantation rates were not significantly improved, but the proportion of ongoing and delivered babies was increased.
To avoid multiple pregnancies without compromising pregnancy rates (PR) is a challenge in assisted reproduction. We have compared pregnancy results among 74 elective one-embryo transfers (group 2) and 94 transfers where only one embryo was available (group 1). All the fresh embryo cycles during 1997 in two clinics in Helsinki were analysed, and cumulative PR among these couples after frozen–thawed embryo transfers up to June 1998 were counted. In group 2, where at least two embryos were available for transfer, and only one was transferred on day 2 or 3, the PR per embryo transfer was 29.7%. In group 1, the PR per embryo transfer was 20.2%. In group 2, the cumulative PR after frozen–thawed embryo transfers was 47.3% per oocyte retrieval. Over the same time, 742 two-embryo transfers were carried out. The PR per embryo transfer was 29.4% in these subjects, but 23.9% of these pregnancies were twins. The implantation rates, as well as the PR, were highest when the embryos were at the four- to five-cell stage on day 2 (35.8 versus 9.7% compared with the two- to three-cell stage, P < 0.001) or at the six- to eight-cell stage on day 3 (45.5%). The PR per embryo transfer was higher when a grade 1 or 2 embryo was transferred compared with a grade three embryo (34.0 and 26.7% versus 8.8% respectively, P < 0.05). In women 35 years or younger, the PR per elective one-embryo transfer was 32.8%. The corresponding figure in women older than 35 years was 18.8%. On the basis of these results, elective one-embryo transfer can be highly recommended, at least in subjects who are younger than 35 years of age, and who have grade one or grade two embryos available for transfer.