STUDY QUESTION: What is the composition and stability during storage and culture of fifteen commercially available human preimplantation embryo culture media? SUMMARY ANSWER: No two culture media had the same composition, and both storage and culture had an effect on the concentrations of multiple components. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: The choice of embryo culture medium not only affects the success rate of an IVF treatment, but also affects the health of the future child. Exact formulations of embryo culture media are often not disclosed by manufacturers. It is unknown whether the composition of these media changes during storage or culture in the IVF laboratory. Without details on the exact concentrations, it is not possible to determine which components might be responsible for the differences in IVF success rates and health of the resulting children. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Between October 2014 and October 2015, all complete human preimplantation embryo culture media, i.e. ready to use for IVF, that were commercially available at that time, were included (n = 15). Osmolality and the concentration of thirty seven components including basic elements, metabolites, immunoglobulins, albumin, proteins and 21 amino acids were tested immediately upon arrival into the IVF laboratory, after three days of culture without embryos (sham culture) starting from the day of arrival, just before the expiry date, and after three days of sham culture just before the expiry date. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Ions, glucose, immunoglobulins, albumin and the total amount of proteins were quantified using a combination of ion selective electrodes and photometric analysis modules, and lactate, pyruvate and 21 amino acids were analysed by ultra performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. Osmolality was analysed by an advanced micro-osmometer. Statistical analysis was done using multivariate general linear models. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: The composition varied between media, no two media had the same concentration of components. Storage led to significant changes in 17 of the 37 analyzed components (magnesium, chloride, phosphate, albumin, total amount of proteins, tyrosine, tryptophan, alanine, methionine, glycine, leucine, glutamine, asparagine, arginine, serine, proline, and threonine). Storage affected the osmolality in 3 of the 15 media, but for all media combined this effect was not significant (p = 0.08). Sham culture of the analyzed media had a significant effect on the concentrations of 13 of the 37 analyzed components (calcium, phosphate, albumin, total amount of proteins, tyrosine, alanine, methionine, glycine, leucine, asparagine, arginine, proline, and histidine). Sham culture significantly affected the osmolality of the analysed culture media. Two media contained 50% D-lactate, which a toxic dead-end metabolite. In a secondary analysis we detected human liver enzymes in more than half of the complete culture media. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: The analyzed culture media could contain components that are not among the 37 components that were analyzed in this study. The clinical relevance of the varying concentrations is yet to be determined. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The presence of D-lactate could be avoided and the finding of human liver enzymes was surprising. The wide variation between culture media shows that the optimal composition is still unknown. This warrants further research as the importance of embryo culture media on the efficacy and safety in IVF is evident. Companies are urged to fully disclose the composition of their culture media, and provide clinical evidence supporting the composition or future changes thereof.None.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1450-1461
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Issue number8
Early online date26 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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