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Dev Dyn. 2009 Apr;238(4):950-5. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.21918.

In vitro embryo culture in defined, sub-microliter volumes.

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Department of Bioengineering, School of Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.


The high attrition rate of in vitro human embryo culture presents a major obstacle in the treatment of clinical infertility by in vitro fertilization (IVF). Physical and genetic requirements are not well understood for human or mouse preimplantation embryo development. Group culture is an established requirement for optimal embryo development in the mouse model. However, conventional microdrop culture limitations hinder investigations of the effects of physical parameters on in vitro embryo development. We report a microfluidics platform that enables embryo culture in precisely defined, sub-microliter volumes (5-500 nl) which cannot be investigated using conventional methods. Groups of two embryos per microfluidic well successfully developed to the blastocyst stage, at a rate of over 80%, which is comparable to those cultured in 20-microl microdrops. This system can be used to dissect physical requirements of in vitro single or group embryo culture, and be made highly parallel to increase experimental throughput.

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