Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Jumpstarting Embryos

Understanding why many IVF embryos stop growing and how they might be reactivated

12 September 2022

Jumpstarting Embryos

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is being used by more and more couples wanting to start a family. Yet, only 1 in 4 treatment rounds in Europe result in pregnancy. This inefficiency is linked to the fact that two-thirds of embryos created during IVF inexplicably stop growing. But scientists may be starting to understand why. By looking at which genes were switched on or off in growth-arrested embryos (pictured), there were two broad reasons why. Either the embryo failed to start making proteins from its own DNA (highlighted in blue) or they didn’t make the crucial shift in how they obtain their energy. When researchers treated these embryos with resveratrol, a small molecule that can activate enzymes called SIRTs (green) to modulate metabolism, over half recommenced development. This could help doctors increase the number of embryos a couple could have available to them in each round of IVF.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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