Research published in the journal Cell now makes it possible to show the human embryo as never seen before

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  • The study was made possible through an international collaboration between the laboratory of Dr. Nicolas Plachta at the University of Pennsylvania, the team of Dr. Denny Sakkas from the Boston IVF clinic, the research team of Igenomix (Vitrolife Group) led by Dr. Carmen Rubio, and the team of Professor Carlos Simón, who is the coordinator of the Reproductive Medicine Area of INCLIVA, Professor at the University of Valencia and Harvard, and President of the Carlos Simon Foundation.
  • Real-time imaging with fluorescent dyes has significant implications for understanding human embryonic development and associated molecular processes, such as the dynamics of chromosome separation during cell divisions and the release of embryonic genetic material into the culture medium.


Through the application of live imaging techniques, an international investigation has made it possible to show how the critical events leading to the development of the human embryo occur.

The study was made possible through a successful collaboration between the laboratory of Dr. Nicolas Plachta (Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania), a world expert in the application of live-imaging techniques, the I+D team from Igenomix S.L., pioneers in technologies for the analysis of the human embryo and uterus (particularly through biochemical and genetic approaches and oriented to the search for non-invasive genetic analysis strategies), and Dr. Carlos Simon, one of the world’s leading specialists in women’s health and reproduction.

The results of this collaborative study were published yesterday in the journal Cell in an article entitled ‘Human embryo live-imaging reveals nuclear DNA shedding during blastocyst expansion and biopsy.’ ¹

Non-invasive techniques in conjunction with live imaging of the human embryo

The study’s main objective was to understand the cellular and morphogenetic processes contributing to early human embryo development and compare them with processes observed in mouse embryos. The study overcame limitations associated with human embryo analysis by using non-invasive fluorescent dyes and live imaging techniques.

The research focused on investigating the early development of human embryos – from the morula stage to the blastocyst (~100 cells), the stage prior to implantation of the embryo in the maternal uterus.

Combining the expertise of Dr. Plachta with the expertise in Reproduction of Dr. Denny Sakkas, Dr. Carmen Rubio, and Professor Carlos Simon helped to establish a technique that provides an unprecedented new means of visualizing the human embryo.

The methodology involved labeling genomic DNA and cytoskeletal components of embryonic cells from in vitro fertilization (IVF) human embryos donated for research at Harvard University.

The research identified differences in cell compaction and polarization and critical events during blastocyst formation. In addition, the study discovered the new phenomenon of nuclear budding, which could represent the origin of chromosomal alterations and the recently reported presence of free embryonic DNA in culture medium in vitro. These findings have significant implications for genetics and assisted reproduction; overall, improving our understanding of the causes of embryonic aneuploidies with non-invasive methods, thereby also improving our diagnostic capabilities, could improve the success rates of assisted reproduction treatments.


¹ Domingo-Muelas A, Skory RM, Moverley AA, Ardestani G, Pomp O, Rubio C, Tetlak P, Hernandez B, Rhon-Calderon EA, Navarro-Sanchez L, Garcia-Pascual CM, Bissiere S, Bartolomei MS, Sakkas D, Simon C, Plachta N ‘Human embryo live-imaging reveals nuclear DNA shedding during blastocyst expansion and biopsy’. Cell.