A non-invasive test for assessing embryo potential by gene expression profiles of human cumulus cells: a proof of concept study

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Identification of new criteria for embryo quality is required to improve the clinical outcome of in vitro fertilization. The aim of this study was to determine the gene expression profile of cumulus cells (CC) surrounding the oocyte as biomarkers for embryo potential and to identify genes to be used as prognostic indicators of successful pregnancy. CC from single oocytes were analysed using DNA microarrays. Gene expression profiles of CC surrounding the oocyte associated with good embryonic quality and pregnancy outcome were computed. We observed that CC issued from oocytes that developed into embryos with a good morphology had differing gene expression profile according to the pregnancy outcome of the embryo. We demonstrated that the expression of BCL2L11, PCK1 and NFIB in CC is significantly correlated with embryo potential and successful pregnancy. These results were confirmed by quantitative RT–PCR. The gene expression profiling of human CC correlates with embryo potential and pregnancy outcome. BCL2L11, PCK1 and NFIB genes are proposed as biomarkers for predicting pregnancy. Our findings suggest a non-invasive approach, offering a new potential strategy for competent embryo selection. This approach should be validated in single-embryo transfer programmes.

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