Although widely used, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are associated with adverse perinatal outcomes. To elucidate their underlying causes, we have conducted a longitudinal analysis of placental development and fetal growth using a mouse model to investigate the effects of individual ART procedures: hormone stimulation, in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryo culture and embryo transfer. We demonstrate that transfer of blastocysts naturally conceived without hormone stimulation and developed in vivo prior to transfer can impair early placentation and fetal growth, but this effect normalizes by term. In contrast, embryos cultured in vitro before transfer do not exhibit this compensation but rather display placental overgrowth, reduced fetal weight, reduced placental DNA methylation and increased levels of sFLT1, an anti-angiogenic protein implicated in causing the maternal symptoms of preeclampsia in humans. Increases in sFLT1 observed in this study suggest that IVF procedures could increase the risk for preeclampsia. Moreover, our results indicate that embryo culture is the major factor contributing to most placental abnormalities and should therefore be targeted for optimization.
- Assisted reproductive technologies
- Fetal growth
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Developmental Biology