Evaluating embryo quality with ultrasensitive protein detection

Infertility is estimated to affect 9% of reproductive-aged couples globally, and many couples turn to assisted reproductive technology (ART). Selecting embryos with maximum development potential plays a pivotal role in obtaining the highest rate of success in ART treatment, which ultimately determines whether a couple gets pregnant.

The conventional way to select embryos is based mainly on a morphological score based on the form of the embryo. This method, however, is subjective, and there is inherent variability in how embryologists score embryos’ morphology.

In comparison, researchers have found it more objective to evaluate the quality of an embryo by detecting the content of proteins secreted by the embryo. In a paper for Biomicrofluidics, a method to detect trace proteins secreted by embryos using microfluidic droplets and multicolor fluorescence holds promise to select embryos for ART.

“The proposed method aims to predict the developmental potential of the embryo based on the secretomics. We only need a small drop of medium to achieve this,” said Yong Zeng, chief scientist of the Fertility Center at Shenzhen Zhongshan Urology Hospital in Shenzhen, China.

“In the future, we will test other different kinds of proteins secreted by the embryo and analyze the relationship between those proteins and embryo quality,” said Zeng.

Since various embryo-secreted proteins often appear in very small amounts, they will also work to develop increasingly sensitive and multifactor protein detection systems.

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