The effects of hyaluronate-containing medium on human embryo attachment to endometrial epithelial cells in vitro



Ruane PT, Buck CJ, Babbington PA, Aboussahoud W, Berneau SC, Westwood M, Kimber SJ, Aplin JD, Brison DR.


Hum Reprod Open. 2020 Feb 28;2020(2):hoz033. doi: 10.1093/hropen/hoz033. 2020.


STUDY QUESTION: Does embryo transfer medium containing hyaluronate (HA) promote the attachment phase of human embryo implantation? SUMMARY ANSWER: HA-containing medium does not promote human blastocyst attachment to endometrial epithelial cells in vitro. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Embryo transfer media containing high concentrations of HA are being used to increase implantation and live birth rates in IVF treatment, although the mechanism of action is unknown. STUDY DESIGN SIZE DURATION: Expression of HA-interacting genes in frozen-thawed oocytes/embryos was assessed by microarray analysis (n = 21). Fresh and frozen human blastocysts (n = 98) were co-cultured with human endometrial epithelial Ishikawa cell layers. Blastocyst attachment and the effects of a widely used HA-containing medium were measured. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS SETTING METHODS: Human embryos surplus to treatment requirements were donated with informed consent from several ART centres. Blastocyst-stage embryos were transferred at day 6 to confluent Ishikawa cell layers; some blastocysts were artificially hatched. Blastocyst attachment was monitored from 1 to 48 h, and the effects of blastocyst pre-treatment for 10 min with HA-containing medium were determined. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Human embryos expressed the HA receptor genes CD44 and HMMR, hyaluronan synthase genes HAS1-3, and hyaluronidase genes HYAL1-3, at all stages of preimplantation development. Attachment of partially hatched blastocysts to Ishikawa cells at 24 and 48 h was related to trophectoderm grade (P = 0.0004 and 0.007, respectively, n = 34). Blastocysts of varying clinical grades that had been artificially hatched were all attached within 48 h (n = 21). Treatment of artificially hatched blastocysts with HA-containing medium did not significantly affect attachment at early (1-6 h) or late (24 and 48 h) time points, compared with control blastocysts (n = 43). LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: Using an adenocarcinoma-derived cell line to model embryo-endometrium attachment may not fully recapitulate in vivo interactions. The high levels of blastocyst attachment seen with this in vitro model may limit the sensitivity with which the effects of HA can be observed. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Morphological trophectoderm grade can be correlated with blastocyst attachment in vitro. HA-containing medium may increase pregnancy rates by mechanisms other than promoting blastocyst attachment to endometrium. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: This work was funded by a grant from the Wellbeing of Women, the NIHR Local Comprehensive Research Network and NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility, the Department of Health Scientist Practitioner Training Scheme, and the Ministry of Higher Education, The State of Libya. None of the authors has any conflict of interest to declare. CI – © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

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Link/DOI: 10.1093/hropen/hoz033