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Ultrastructural observations of enzymatically treated human blastocysts: Zona-free blastocyst transfer and rescue of blastocysts with hatching difficulties

Ultrastructural observations of enzymatically treated human blastocysts: Zona-free blastocyst transfer and rescue of blastocysts with hatching difficulties

Human Reproduction 16(3): 540-546

Enzymatic treatment of the zona pellucida to either soften or remove totally the zona before blastocyst transfer has resulted in high implantation rates. The zona is usually completely dissolved after 1.5 min exposure with 10 IU pronase at 37 degrees C. Since there may be concerns that pronase treatment for periods of 1.5 min or longer may cause adverse effects on the trophectoderm (TE) and inner cell mass (ICM), the changes to human blastocysts exposed to different time intervals of pronase were investigated. Of 18 blastocysts exposed to pronase for 1.5 min, the zona was completely dissolved and no changes were observed by light microscopy (LM) or transmission electron microscopy (TEM), compared with 11 naturally hatched untreated blastocysts (controls). In another five blastocysts exposed to pronase for 2 min, no LM changes were observed but subtle TEM changes such as fewer bundles of tonofibrils attached to desmosomes were observed. When three other blastocysts were exposed to pronase for 5 min, the blastocoele collapsed, and the TE cells started to show blebbing under LM. Under TEM, the cytoplasm of TE cells was extensively vacuolated and many TE cells showed cytoplasmic blebbing towards the blastocoele. However, the epithelium was uninterrupted with intact tight junctions and desmosomes. Of a separate group of 44 blastocysts cultured in vitro, 54.5% had hatching difficulties when monitored from day 5 to day 8 and 80% of these could be rescued by removal of the zona with pronase for 1.5 min prior to extensive degeneration taking place. The results confirm that the optimal time for softening or complete removal of the zona before transfer was around 1.5 min and that enzymatic treatment was a safe, non-invasive procedure to remove the zona of blastocysts. The human embryonic TE is a very hardy, robust epithelium that withstands pronase treatment.

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Accession: 011609600

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 11228226

DOI: 10.1093/humrep/16.3.540

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