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Hum Reprod. 1997 Oct;12(10):2263-6.

Prospective randomized study comparing human serum albumin with fetal cord serum as protein supplement in culture medium for in-vitro fertilization.

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Infertility Centre, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.


The use of human serum albumin (HSA) instead of fetal cord serum (FCoS) as protein supplement highly simplifies the preparation of culture medium for human in-vitro fertilization (IVF) but whether they are equivalent in sustaining embryo development is still controversial. We performed a prospective randomized study of patients undergoing IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) where embryos were cultured in Earle's balanced salt solution containing either 8% (v/v) FCoS or 0.4% (w/v) HSA as protein source. Fertilization rates, morphological embryonic quality and pregnancy rates were compared. A total of 2189 oocytes from 210 cycles were cultured in medium supplemented with HSA in patient group 1 and 2109 oocytes from 203 cycles in medium supplemented with FCoS in patient group 2. The fertilization rate, defined as the presence of two nuclei, for microinjected oocytes was similar in both patient groups (77.4 and 76.7%, respectively). The fertilization rate for inseminated oocyte-cumulus complexes was significantly higher in the HSA group than in the FCoS group (62.9 versus 53.8%, P < 0.025). The embryonic quality was significantly better after culture in medium supplemented with HSA than with FCoS (13.7 versus 9.9% morphologically excellent embryos, P < 0.001). Implantation rates per transferred embryo were not significantly different (22.5 versus 18.2%), but there was a significantly higher pregnancy rate per embryo transfer in the HSA group (45.7 versus 35.9%, P < 0.05, respectively). Non-evolutive pregnancy rates were significantly different (27.4 and 16.7%). Our data demonstrate that the use of human serum albumin as a protein supplement for culture medium in human IVF programmes is associated with improved embryonic quality and significantly higher pregnancy rates. For this reason as well as the additional benefits of being virus-free and being purified, HSA is preferable to FCoS for the preparation of culture media in human IVF.

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