Polar body morphology and spindle imaging as predictors of oocyte quality

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      It has been suggested that first polar body (PBI) morphology reflects oocyte competence. Oocytes with an intact normal-sized PBI have been described as generating better day 2 embryos, higher blastocyst yield, and increased pregnancy and implantation rates. In other studies, PBI morphology was found to be unrelated to fertilization rate, embryo quality, and blastocyst formation. In a prospective analysis, the predictive value of the PBI was investigated by comparing the development of oocytes retrieved from intracytoplasmic sperm injection patients and displaying different PBI morphology, classified according to the following characteristics: normal size and smooth surface (I), fragmented (II), rough surface (III), or large size (IV). Fertilization rates were 59, 57, 64 and 60% respectively. No significant differences were found between the various groups. The proportions of high quality (grade A) day 2 embryos were also comparable among groups I–III (14, 12 and 17% respectively), while the low number of grade A embryos in group IV (two embryos) did not allow comparison with the other classes. These data do not suggest that PBI selection can contribute to identification of embryos with high developmental ability. In order to establish alternative criteria for oocyte selection, a metaphase II (MII) spindle analysis was also conducted via Polscope. In oocytes of patients of different age, spindle retardance (which reflects the high order and density of microtubules) was compared with parameters of embryo development. In aged patients, a trend was observed between low retardance and poor embryo quality, although in general the association between retardance and oocyte developmental performance did not reach statistical significance.



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      Lucia De Santis graduated in Biological Sciences from the University of Milan, Italy in 1993 collaborating in a research project on the involvement of c-myc oncogene expression in non-small cell lung carcinoma. Concurrently, for 5 years up to 1994, she was associated with the Surgical Pathology Department at the University of Milan, contributing to the Quantitative Pathology Service there and developing extensive experience in DNA flow cytometric analysis of solid tumours and in immunohistochemistry. In 1995 she established the IVF laboratory facilities of S. Raffaele Hospital, also in Milan. Since then she has had a major role in developing a large IVF programme introducing over the years basic and more advanced techniques after attending courses at leading assisted reproduction centres. In January 2005 she was appointed laboratory director. Her current interests concern fundamental and clinical aspects of oocyte cryopreservation.