A comparison of polarized and non-polarized human endometrial monolayer culture systems on murine embryo development
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Co-culture of embryos with various somatic cells has been suggested as a promising approach to improve embryo development. Despite numerous reports regarding the beneficial effects of epithelial cells from the female genital tract on embryo development in a co-culture system, little is known about the effect of these cells when being cultured under a polarized condition on embryo growth. Our study evaluated the effects of in vitro polarized cells on pre-embryo development.
Human endometrial tissue was obtained from uterine specimens excised at total hysterectomy performed for benign indications. Epithelial cells were promptly isolated and cultured either on extra-cellular matrix gel (ECM-Gel) coated millipore filter inserts (polarized) or plastic surfaces (non-polarized). The epithelial nature of the cells cultured on plastic was confirmed through immunohistochemistry, and polarization of cells cultured on ECM-Gel was evaluated by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). One or two-cell stage embryos of a superovulated NMRI mouse were then flushed and placed in culture with either polarized or non-polarized cells and medium alone. Development rates were determined for all embryos daily and statistically compared. At the end of the cultivation period, trophectoderm (TE) and inner cell mass (ICM) of expanded blastocysts from each group were examined microscopically.
Endometrial epithelial cells cultured on ECM-Gel had a highly polarized columnar shape as opposed to the flattened shape of the cells cultured on a plastic surface. The two-cell embryos cultured on a polarized monolayer had a higher developmental rate than those from the non-polarized cells. There was no statistically significant difference; still, the blastocysts from the polarized monolayer, in comparison with the non-polarized group, had a significantly higher mean cell number. The development of one-cell embryos in the polarized and non-polarized groups showed no statistically significant difference.
Polarized cells could improve in vitro embryo development from the two-cell stage more in terms of quality (increasing blastocyst cellularity) than in terms of developmental rate.
This research was supported by Royan Institute. We thank the staff of the Department of Electron Microscopy of the Sahid Beheshty University for ultrastructural evaluation, and the clinicians in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the Arash and Tehran Hospital for supplying endometrial samples.
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