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Pig breeding study may help human IVF success

24 July 2017

By Dr Rachel Huddart

Appeared in BioNews 910

US scientists have dramatically improved the in vitro maturation (IVM) of pig egg cells, offering the possibility that similar successes could be achieved in humans.

By investigating the conditions in which egg cells were growing in the lab, researchers were able to double both the number of viable pig embryos and the size of litters birthed. 

Professor R. Michael Roberts of the University of Missouri said: 'It was a serendipitous discovery, really. Generally, there are multiple steps to producing viable embryos … however, it’s costly and sometimes yields very little return. We were seeking a way to do that more efficiently and stumbled upon a method that may have implications in human fertility clinics as well.'

IVM involves the removal of immature eggs, which are then matured in the laboratory prior to fertilisation and implantation. This is different to IVF (in vitro fertilisation), where eggs are allowed to mature in the body before being removed for fertilisation.

The research, published in the journal PNAS, investigated ways to improve the number of live piglets born from eggs which had undergone IVM and IVF. Cells in the lab need to be grown in a growth medium, which contains not only nutrients, but also small proteins known as cytokines, which affect cell growth and behaviour. Using the correct cytokines in a growth medium helps to mimic the environment the cells would be in inside the body, and can be vital in keeping cells in good condition.

By adding three specific cytokines, FGF2, LIF and IGF1, to the egg cells' medium, named FLI medium, the researchers were able to double the number of viable embryos suitable for implantation, and when these embryos were used they gave double the litter size of piglets born. This, in effect, quadrupled the total efficiency of the procedure.

The scientists, from the University of Missouri, do not work on human fertility, but on cattle and pig breeding as well as making animal models of human disease, where efficient IVM and IVF is also key to success. The researchers hope the FLI medium may be effective in human IVF.

University of Missouri | 18 July 2017
Technology Networks | 19 July 2017
Pig Progress | 19 July 2017
Decoding Science blog, University of Missouri | 06 July 2017
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences | 03 July 2017


04 September 2017 - by Anna Leida 
A new imaging technique can help assess the quality of early-stage embryos...

30 August 2016 - by Dr Rachel Huddart 
Researchers have reported on an experimental technique that could improve the fertilisation success rate of in vitro maturation IVM, an alternative fertility method to IVF...
14 December 2015 - by Dr Jane Currie 
A litter of puppies has been born through IVF for the first time, reports a study that has implications not only for veterinary medicine but also for human genetic research...
09 February 2015 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Researchers have identified a biological process that may cause the failure of embryos to attach to the uterus wall during IVF, raising the possibility of future treatments...
08 October 2012 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
Scratching the womb lining may increase a woman's chances of successful IVF treatment, say UK scientists...

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