New technique can look at metabolism of embryos obtained through in vitro fertilization

A new technique developed by the “Bioengineering in Reproductive Health” team at the Bioengineering Institute of Catalonia (IBEC) is able to visualise the metabolism of the embryo. in vitro Fertilization is used to decide which embryos are most likely to implant correctly in the uterus and reach full term. It is a more accurate and reliable technique than traditional methods.

The revolutionary method, called Metaphor, produces 3D images that reveal the colours present in the embryo in a completely non-invasive way. Some naturally fluorescent compounds in the embryo's metabolism are also important for processes such as cellular respiration or nutrient consumption, making Metaphor a reliable way to monitor embryo health.

This new technology will help increase the chances of success in assisted reproduction procedures, shorten the so-called 'time to pregnancy', and reduce the economic and psychological burden on patients.”

Samuel Ojosnegros, IBEC principal investigator and leader of the study

This research paper has been published in a reputed journal. PNASdescribes how, in studies with mice, they were able to double the success rate in selecting viable embryos compared to embryologists using conventional microscopy. In addition to embryo analysis, this method is highly accurate in analyzing oocyte metabolism, allowing the most suitable oocytes to be selected. in vitro fertilization. To do this, they compared oocytes from young and old females, as age is known to be important for the viability of oocytes. The Metaphor system discriminated between young and non-young oocytes with 96% accuracy and was able to predict with more than 80% accuracy which one would develop into a viable embryo, which is an unprecedented figure in this field.

“We are able to assess the decline in egg quality associated with fertility decline with age. We look for so-called 'molecular signatures,' characteristics of cells that are associated with a decline in fertility, such as the distribution of mitochondria. From this information, we can predict which oocytes will develop and which will not. This would be a major breakthrough in the management of donation and preservation of fertility,” said Anna Ceriola, senior researcher in the Ojosnegros group and author of the study.

The technological basis of Metaphor uses artificial intelligence methods to analyze metabolic images obtained by hyperspectral microscopy. “Using hyperspectral microscopy, we obtain hundreds of images containing complex information of many mixed metabolites from embryos and oocytes. To analyze them, we trained an artificial intelligence tool that is able to analyze and classify these images in just a few minutes,” says Albert Parra, a researcher in the Ojosnegros group and first author of the study.

The power and safety of the new method support Metaphor as a revolutionary tool for evaluating oocytes and embryos based on their physiology. The researchers are currently perfecting the technique to evaluate human embryos and have founded a spin-off company to bring the technology to assisted reproduction clinics in the coming years.


Catalonia Bioengineering Institute (IBEC)

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