One of the areas that has evolved the most in recent years within assisted reproduction has been the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) laboratory.
The success rates we now obtain in treatments far exceed those that could be achieved a few years ago. Undoubtedly, the way in which we work with gametes and embryos has evolved positively and is one of the reasons for this increase in results.
We now know more about the requirements of embryos to be cultured while minimizing the stress induced by the techniques we perform. We have improved the composition of the culture media that serve as life support and, in short, we have adapted the space and environmental conditions of our laboratories in order to mimic what happens in the maternal reproductive tract.
This task is not easy, parameters such as light, humidity, pressure, temperature, air quality, etc., are key, and we know that the environment in the fallopian tubes or in the uterus has little to do, a priori, with that of a room equipped as a laboratory.
How do we achieve this? Thanks to the technology that has been developed in recent years, such as the new incubators that we use in Ovoclinic’s laboratories, that maintain more strictly and continuously the cultivation conditions and also, all those controls and measurements that we carry out day by day in the laboratory in order to guarantee that the conditions are the best and that they remain stable over time.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TEMPERATURE IN THE LABORATORY
The impact it can have on our embryos and, therefore, on the likelihood of treatment success is enormous. As an example, temperature control. We usually work with gametes and embryos at 37ºC, but we must measure this temperature daily since external agents such as seasonal changes, changes in the room climate, etc. …. may cause fluctuations.
A priori, it may not seem very serious if the temperature fluctuates by half a degree Celsius, but we know that these small variations can have a negative impact on the embryos. In the oocyte there are cellular structures vital for the rearrangement of chromosomes during the divisions that the embryo will have to undergo. Well, these important structures are thermolabile, which means that they depolymerize (break apart) and repolymerize again according to thermal changes.
In some of these polymerization-depolymerization processes, since these structures are connected and serve as guides for the chromosomes during their arrangement, some of them may not be distributed correctly. As a consequence, the cells generated by the embryo in its divisions would not have an adequate number of chromosomes (aneuploid embryos), which considerably increases the probability that these embryos will stop their development either in the first days of embryonic life or later on, resulting in negative pregnancy tests or early miscarriages.
There are numerous scientific publications that show differences in the rate of euploidy/aneuploidy (embryos with normal vs. abnormal chromosomal endowment) between different laboratories in groups of patients with similar ages and diagnoses. The authors of these publications justify these differences on the basis of the laboratory “environment” or, in other words, the culture conditions to which the embryos are subjected.
It is clear the importance of controlling these parameters that will define the genetic distribution of our embryos and, therefore, the possibility of successful treatments. Thanks to this knowledge, we now have a specific quality standard : UNE 179007, for assisted reproduction laboratories, which defines what characteristics the laboratory must have and what environmental parameters must be monitored to guarantee the minimum negative impact on embryo development.
Undoubtedly, a laboratory certified with this seal of quality will offer patients a greater guarantee as to the safety of their embryo culture and, consequently, higher success rates.