Embryo Culture and Phenotype of the Offspring

  • Arne Sunde


Children born after assisted reproduction technology (ART) are in general born earlier and have lower birth weight and slightly higher malformation and morbidity rate compared to children born after natural conception. ART is also associated with cardiovascular remodelling, changes in insulin sensitivity and blood lipids, fat distributions, bone length and earlier entry into puberty.

The reason for this is multifactorial; maternal and paternal factors such as infertility, lifestyle and obesity contribute as well as treatment-related factors like ovarian stimulation and in vitro fertilization and in vitro embryo culture.

A change in the epigenome in the early embryo is a likely mediator of the treatment-related changes in the phenotype of the offspring. Culture conditions, cryopreservation and different culture media have been shown to influence the epigenome of embryos, placenta and children born.

A controversial issue has been whether different embryo culture media could have different effects on the growth trajectory of the foetus and the birth weight of the child. Different culture media will induce different expression profiles in human embryos and embryonic stem cells. It is still unclear whether this difference in the embryonic epigenome is related the later growth of the foetus. Concerning the birth weight, most, but not all, properly designed prospective randomized studies have demonstrated an effect of the embryo culture media.

It is reasonably evident that ART including in vitro fertilization and embryo culture is related to changes in the phenotype of the offspring. Some of these changes are associated with the long-term health and morbidity but are far too early to make any firm predictions concerning the long-term health profile of ART children.


Embryo culture Phenotype Offspring Assisted reproduction ART In vitro fertilization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arne Sunde
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Clinical and Molecular MedicineNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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