Do embryos live a ‘quiet’ or an ‘active’ life?

I recently wrote about the ‘Energy test’ or ‘Mito score’ for patients undergoing Fertility treatments such as IVF or ICSI. In that post, I mentioned the theory of selecting a ‘Quiet Embryo’ to improve the IVF success rate. I felt that it would be reasonable to discuss in more detail what we mean by quiet embryo.

Like adults, the embryos are in an active metabolic stage. The embryo cells are constantly dividing in the first few days. The embryo cells continue dividing, but also start differentiating to form the organs and structures. To keep up with the cell housekeeping activities, the embryo cells need energy. This energy is produced within the fine structure inside the embryo cells called ‘Mitochondria’, AKA the ‘Powerhouse of the cell’.

A quiet embryo leads to favourable ‘energy test’ results

Similar to adults, the cells also have an optimum rate of energy burn out or metabolism. This varies from embryo to embryo. If the embryo is active for a variety of reasons, then it will exhaust its supplies and eventually stop developing and perish.

Previously, it was believed that the embryos are very active. But now, studies in humans and other species show that the embryos are relatively quiet. If they are spending too much energy, then they might be abnormal and may not result in a successful pregnancy.

This is cutting edge science. The challenge that the scientists are facing is to understand the normal range. Besides this, the medium in which the embryos are incubated should promote a quiet level of metabolism.

It is also thought that in a super nutrient rich environment, some women can influence the metabolic rate of the embryos. This may be one of the reasons for reduced pregnancy rates in women receiving fertility treatment with a BMI more than 35.

Currently, the ‘energy test’ is not available for patients undergoing fertility treatments in the UK. The science is progressing, and hopefully, there will be better fertility tests that will assist your fertility specialist in selecting the embryos that have a better chance of implanting. This will help maximise the IVF success rate and will benefit patients going through fertility treatments.