STUDY QUESTION Is the attachment of biofunctionalized polysilicon barcodes to the outer surface of the zona pellucida an effective approach for the direct tagging and identification of cultured embryos? SUMMARY ANSWER The results achieved provide a proof of concept for a direct embryo tagging system using biofunctionalized polysilicon barcodes, which could help to minimize the risk of mismatching errors (mix-ups) in human assisted reproduction technologies. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Even though the occurrence of mix-ups is rare, several cases have been reported in fertility clinics around the world. Measures to prevent the risk of mix-ups in human assisted reproduction technologies are therefore required. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION Mouse embryos were tagged with 10 barcodes and the effectiveness of the tagging system was tested during fresh in vitro culture (n=140) and after embryo cryopreservation (n = 84). Finally, the full-term development of tagged embryos was evaluated (n =105). PARTICIPANTS/ MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Mouse pronuclear embryos were individually rolled over wheat germ agglutinin-biofunctionalized polysilicon barcodes to distribute them uniformly around the ZONA PELLUCIDA surface. Embryo viability and retention of barcodes were determined during 96 h of culture. The identification of tagged embryos was performed every 24 h in an inverted microscope and without embryo manipulation to simulate an automatic reading procedure. Full-term development of the tagged embryos was assessed after their transfer to pseudo-pregnant females. To test the validity of the embryo tagging system after a cryopreservation process, tagged embryos were frozen at the 2-cell stage using a slow freezing protocol, and followed in culture for 72 h after thawing. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE Neither the in vitro or in vivo development of tagged embryos was adversely affected. The tagging system also proved effective during an embryo cryopreservation process. Global identification rates higher than 96 and 92% in fresh and frozen-thawed tagged embryos, respectively, were obtained when simulating an automatic barcode reading system, although these rates could be increased to 100% by simply rotating the embryos during the reading process. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION The direct embryo tagging developed here has exclusively been tested in mouse embryos. Its effectiveness in other species, such as the human, is currently being tested. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS The direct embryo tagging system developed here, once tested in human embryos, could provide fertility clinics with a novel tool to reduce the risk of mix-ups in human assisted reproduction technologies. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) This study was supported by Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (TEC2011-29140-C03) and by the Generalitat de Catalunya (2009SGR-00282). © 2013 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. All rights reserved.
- assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
- embryo tagging