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Stem Cells Dev. 2011 May;20(5):785-93. doi: 10.1089/scd.2010.0338. Epub 2010 Oct 17.

The influence of early embryo traits on human embryonic stem cell derivation efficiency.

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Department for Reproductive Medicine, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.


Despite its prognostic value in in vitro fertilization, early embryo morphology is not reported on in the derivation of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines. Standard hESC derivation does rely on blastocyst development and its efficiency is highly correlated to inner cell mass (ICM) quality. Poor-quality embryos (PQEs) donated for hESC derivation may have a range of cleavage-stage abnormalities that are known to compromise further development. This study was implemented to determine whether specific PQEs traits influence the efficiency of good-quality ICMs to derive new hESC lines. We found that although the types of PQEs investigated were all able to make blastocysts with good-quality ICMs, the ICMs were unequal in their ability to derive hESCs. Good-quality ICMs from embryos with multiple poor-quality traits were unable to generate hESC lines, in contrast to good-quality ICMs from embryos with a single poor-quality trait. In addition, our data suggest a direct correlation between the number of ICM cells present in the blastocyst and its capacity to derive new hESC lines. This study is the first to demonstrate that ICM quality alone is an incomplete indicator of hESC derivation and that application of in vitro fertilization-based early embryo scoring can help predict hESC derivation efficiency. Experiments aiming to quantify, improve upon, or compare hESC derivation efficiency should thus take into consideration early embryo morphology scoring for the comparison of groups with equal developmental competence.

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