Non-invasive molecular assessment of human embryo development and implantation potential

Catarina M. Abreu, Victoria Thomas, Paul Knaggs, Adnan Bunkheila, Andrea Cruz, Sofia R. Teixeira, Pedro Alpuim, Lewis W. Francis, Amr Gebril, Ahmed Ibrahim, Lavinia Margarit, Deyarina Gonzalez, Paulo P. Freitas, R. Steven Conlan, Inês Mendes Pinto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common assisted reproductive technology used to treat infertility. Embryo selection for transfer in IVF cycles relies on the morphological evaluation by embryologists, either by conventional microscopic assessment or more recently by time-lapse imaging systems. Despite the introduction of time-lapse imaging improvements in IVF success rates have failed to materialize, therefore alternative approaches are needed. Recent studies have shown that embryos resulting in successful pregnancy differ in their secretome and metabolism compared to embryos that fail to implant, suggesting that molecular analysis of embryo culture medium could assist in non-invasive single embryo selection. However, this approach has yet to be adopted clinically due to the lack of appropriate highly sensitive screening technologies needed to assess volume-limited samples. Here we report the detection of hCGβ, IL-8 and TNFα from conditioned culture media of single human embryos using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. The impedimetric immunosensors revealed that morphologically non-viable embryos produce higher levels of IL-8 and TNFα, associated with abnormal cell division and cell death, respectively. More importantly, hCGβ detection was able to discriminate apparently morphologically identical viable embryos. This work brings an objective dimension to embryo selection, which could overcome the major limitations of morphology-based embryo selection for implantation. Future work should include the validation of these biomarkers in a large patient cohort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112144
Pages (from-to)112144
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy
  • Human embryo
  • Immunosensors
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Cell Line
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human/analysis
  • Immunoassay/methods
  • Biosensing Techniques/methods
  • Humans
  • Embryo Culture Techniques
  • Embryonic Development
  • Embryo Implantation
  • Embryo, Mammalian/metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Culture Media, Conditioned/analysis
  • Interleukin-8/analysis
  • Female
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha/analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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