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Theriogenology. 2007 Sep 1;68 Suppl 1:S178-89. Epub 2007 May 23.

Toward culture of single gametes: the development of microfluidic platforms for assisted reproduction.

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  • 1Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, United States.


During the last few decades in vitro production of mammalian embryos and assisted reproductive technologies such as embryo transfer, cryopreservation, and cloning have been used to produce and propagate genetically superior livestock. However, efficiencies of these technologies remain low. For these technologies to become more commercially viable, the efficiencies must improve. Despite this importance of reproduction for the livestock industry, little progress in decreasing embryonic mortality has been made. The livestock industry has succeeded in achieving large increases in average milk production of dairy cattle, growth rate in beef cattle and leanness in swine but reproductive efficiency has actually decreased. For example, research has provided little progress toward developing an objective method to examine viability of a single living embryo. At the same time, the growth of miniaturization technologies beyond integrated circuits and toward small mechanical systems has created opportunities for fresh examination of a wide range of existing problems. While the investigation and application of miniaturization technologies to medicine and biology is progressing rapidly, there has been limited exploration of microfabricated systems in the area of embryo production. Microfluidics is an emerging technology that allows a fresh examination of the way assisted reproduction is performed. Here we review the progress in demonstrating microfluidic systems for in vitro embryo production (IVP) and embryo manipulation. Microfluidic technology could have a dramatic impact on the development of new techniques as well as on our basic understanding of gamete and embryo physiology.

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