27 October 2022

Artificial Intelligence tools and mother-embryo dialogue, IVI’s main players at the ASRM Congress

male infertility
By the Editorial Comitee IVI Blog

Male infertility and artificial intelligence is also one of our priorities while researching. Research is one of the mainstays of IVI’s success and leadership in the field of reproductive medicine. Over the last few days we have been present at the 78th Congress of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), with numerous research projects.

However, there are three papers that we would like to describe in greater depth. One of them focuses on artificial intelligence for male infertility and also devitrified embryo selection.

Male infertility and artificial Intelligence

In our daily lives we can see how infertility is mostly focused on the female factor. But, as the data show, the reality is that infertility also affects men. To treat all cases, we work on a daily basis to bring the latest advances to our clinics and offer our patients the best results.

In order to learn more about male infertility and artificial intelligence, one of the studies that we would like to describe today was presented at the ASRM meeting held this year in California.

“After the analysis of intensive research work, we have created a novel tool for non-invasive sperm analysis, through the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This allows us to differentiate certain spermatozoa from others. We thus define the individual biochemical profile of each one of them. In turn, this allows us to know, without the need to alter the sperm for analysis, which are the most suitable to achieve reproductive success”, explained Dr. Nicolás Garrido, director of the IVI Foundation. In addition, Dr. Garrido is the supervisor of this study, entitled ‘Hyperspectral imaging of single spermatozoa as a promising non-destructive objective tool for sperm selection prior to ICSI – determination of reproducibility and specificity’.

Current research into male infertility is limited. This means there is a need for more knowledge about the factors that influence male infertility, as well as improved diagnosis and treatment. Further research will shed light on this and ultimately help patients’ reproductive success.

“Until now, the biochemical information of spermatozoa has only been studied using invasive techniques. Thanks to this paper, we are able to innocuously associate a unique and unambiguous ID number to the spermatozoon and recognise it among other spermatozoa. To do this, we first had to be able to prove that what we measure is reproducible, individual and characteristic of one specific spermatozoon and not another, within the same semen sample. And now that we know how to do this and we can differentiate one sperm from another, we can study the results of the sperm we microinject according to its characteristics. We will be able to know which embryos reach blastocyst, live newborns… and thus select those with the most suitable profile, ultimately improving the results of the treatments”, said Dr. Garrido.

Artificial Intelligence to analyse devitrified embryos 

At IVI we are pioneers worldwide in the application of Artificial Intelligence in embryo selection. In this sense, it is worth highlighting another of the studies presented at the congress. The paper is entitled ‘Application of Artificial Intelligence on vitrified/warmed embryos: prediction of live birth from post-warmed blastocyst dynamics’. It goes a step further in terms of the results, compared to those achieved so far. This tool makes it possible to predict the capacity of a devitrified embryo to produce a baby.

“We have been making progress in the study and application of Artificial Intelligence for embryo selection for 5 years. During this time, we have achieved encouraging results. This has helped us to make our patients’ wishes a reality in the shortest time and with the best guarantees. This paper goes a little further. It allows us to test how the analysis of embryonic development by Artificial Intelligence after embryo devitrification can be indicative of the potential of these embryos to give rise to a live newborn”, said Dr. Marcos Meseguer, embryologist, scientific supervisor of IVI Valencia and coordinator of the study.

Dr. Meseguer added: “This is something that has never been done to date and in which we are pioneers. Instead of placing the embryo in a conventional incubator to await transfer to the mother’s uterus after devitrification, as is generally the case, we placed it in the Embryoscope incubator. This enabled us to obtain a film of the embryonic development. This shows us how the embryo’s appearance changes during the 4 hours it remains in the incubator. This led us to discover that, depending on the embryo’s behaviour when it thaws, we can know its chances of implantation, using an AI algorithm that allows us to evaluate its development during this time prior to its transfer”, added Dr. Meseguer.

The aforementioned results in an improvement in diagnosis. This increases the precision in the degree of certainty to confirm the possibility of implantation of each embryo.

Epigenetics: dialogue between mother and embryo

When it comes to treatment with donated eggs, many barriers, especially emotional ones, appear among patients. There are many doubts, fears or rejections that we see every day in the consultation room. In order to provide answers, IVI has recently developed several lines of research. These provide peace of mind for these patients, highlighting the ‘dialogue’ that takes place between the embryo and its mother, who gestated it.

“Epigenetics demonstrates that the uterine environment has a great influence on the early stages of embryo development. This is necessary for correct implantation to take place and for a pregnancy to be carried to term”, said Dr. Hortensia Ferrero, a researcher at the IVI Foundation.

This was the starting point for the paper ‘Human blastocysts uptake extracellular vesicles secreted by primary endometrial epithelial cells containing miRNAs related to implantation and early embryo development’. This paper was also presented at the recently closed edition of the ASRM and received the ‘Endometriosis SIG Prize Paper – Best in Basic Science’ award.

“This study was born with a clear objective: to demonstrate that the maternal endometrium communicates with the embryo before it implants. This communication is involved in processes that participate in endometrial receptivity and embryo development, which are necessary for successful implantation. Thus, our data suggest that the maternal endometrium secretes vesicles containing micro-regulators of gene expression (miRNAs) that are internalised by the embryo and modulate biological processes involved in implantation and early embryo development. These miRNAs could be indicators of implantation, and may even be useful for improving the success rates of reproductive treatments”, said Dr. Ferrero, principal investigator of the study.

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