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Like Babies, Embryos Like to be Rocked, Too
Like babies that can be lulled to sleep with swaying, embryos also prefer to be rocked.
By gently rocking embryos while they grew during in vitro fertilization, scientists increased pregnancy rates in mice by more than 20 percent. The same rock-a-bye procedure could lead to more success for in vitro fertilization in humans, the researchers say.
"One of our goals for years now has been to modify how we grow embryos in the lab to be more like how they grow in the human body, because we know that the human body grows them most efficiently," said Gary Smith, associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
The device consists of a thimble-sized funnel, and at the bottom of the funnel are tiny channels that allow nutrient-rich fluids to flow in and waste to move out.
The funnel sits on rows of Braille pins programmed to pulse up and down, pushing fluids in and out of the microchannels. The pulsing simulates motion in the body that ultimately pushes fertilized eggs into the uterus and flushes out an egg's waste products.
"It gets this periodic rocking or fluid flow," Takayama said. "The amazing thing is that the embryos seem to notice."
To test out the embryo cradle of sorts, the team incubated early-stage mouse embryos, each about the size of a pencil tip, in either a static dish (similar to current IVF methods) or in the new rocking device. They found the rocked embryos were much healthier and robust after four days compared with the still ones. Read more.