Non-invasive imaging of human embryos before embryonic genome activation predicts development to the blastocyst stage

Nat Biotechnol. 2010 Oct;28(10):1115-21. doi: 10.1038/nbt.1686. Epub 2010 Oct 3.


We report studies of preimplantation human embryo development that correlate time-lapse image analysis and gene expression profiling. By examining a large set of zygotes from in vitro fertilization (IVF), we find that success in progression to the blastocyst stage can be predicted with >93% sensitivity and specificity by measuring three dynamic, noninvasive imaging parameters by day 2 after fertilization, before embryonic genome activation (EGA). These parameters can be reliably monitored by automated image analysis, confirming that successful development follows a set of carefully orchestrated and predictable events. Moreover, we show that imaging phenotypes reflect molecular programs of the embryo and of individual blastomeres. Single-cell gene expression analysis reveals that blastomeres develop cell autonomously, with some cells advancing to EGA and others arresting. These studies indicate that success and failure in human embryo development is largely determined before EGA. Our methods and algorithms may provide an approach for early diagnosis of embryo potential in assisted reproduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Automation
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Blastocyst / metabolism*
  • Blastocyst / pathology
  • Cytokinesis / genetics
  • Embryonic Development / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Mitosis / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors


  • Biomarkers