A link to pregnancy complications with assisted reproduction discovered

Researchers find that embryo culture is a factor that may lead to more complicated pregnancies with assisted reproduction processes.

An experimental study from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine links a specific procedure—embryo culture—that is part of the assisted reproduction process (ART) to placental abnormalities, risk for preeclampsia, and abnormal fetal growth. The team, led by Marisa Bartolemei, a professor of cell and developmental biology, published their findings in Development. 

A petri dish in a lab under a microscope with two mechanical pipettes.

Millions of births across the world have occurred with the aid of ART, and while its use continues to rise globally, this revolution in human reproduction does come with some problems, the underlying cause of these issues remain unclear.

“The question has always been, is increased risk a function of infertility or is it due to these procedures, because you’re doing all these manipulations outside the normal environment,” Bartolomei says.

Bartolomei and colleagues used a mouse model to study the effects of four individual ART procedures—hormone stimulation, in vitro fertilization, embryo culture and embryo transfer—on placental development and fetal growth. All four procedures led to reduced fetal weight at mid-gestation, and at late gestation groups utilizing embryo culture still had reduced fetal weight, larger placentas, and altered placental cell composition.

This story is by Melissa Moody. Read more at Penn Medicine News.