Embryo Culture

Volume 912 of the series Methods in Molecular Biology pp 177-198


Media Composition: Growth Factors

  • Aparna HegdeAffiliated withDepartment of OB/GYN, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Stanford University
  • , Barry BehrAffiliated withIVF Laboratory, Department of OB/GYN, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Stanford University Email author 

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Despite the fact that the fundamental principle underlying the most common method of culture media constitution is that of mimicking the natural environment of the preimplantation embryo, one major difference that remains between current embryo culture media and in vivo conditions is the absence of growth factors in vitro. Numerous growth factors are known to be present in the in vivo environment of human and nonhuman preimplantation embryos, often with peak concentrations corresponding to when fertilization and preimplantation embryo growth would occur. Although these growth factors are found in very small concentrations, they have a profound effect on tissue growth and differentiation through attachment to factor-specific receptors on cell surfaces. Receptors for many different growth factors have also been detected in human preimplantation embryos. Preimplantation embryos themselves express many growth factors. The growth factors and receptors are metabolically costly to produce, and thus their presence in the environment of the preimplantation embryo and in the embryo respectively strongly implies that embryos are designed to encounter and respond to the corresponding factors. Studies of embryo coculture also indirectly suggest that growth factors can improve in vitro development. Several animal and human studies attest to a probable beneficial effect of addition of growth factors to culture media. However, there is still ambiguity regarding the exact role of growth factors in embryonic development, the optimal dose of growth factors to be added to culture media, the combinatorial effect and endocrine of growth factors in embryonic development.

Key words

Growth factors Embryo culture Growth factor receptors Coculture