Media composition: growth factors

Methods Mol Biol. 2012;912:177-98. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-971-6_11.


Despite the fact that the fundamental principle underlying the most common method of culture media constitution is that of mimicking the natural environment of the preimplantation embryo, one major difference that remains between current embryo culture media and in vivo conditions is the absence of growth factors in vitro. Numerous growth factors are known to be present in the in vivo environment of human and nonhuman preimplantation embryos, often with peak concentrations corresponding to when fertilization and preimplantation embryo growth would occur. Although these growth factors are found in very small concentrations, they have a profound effect on tissue growth and differentiation through attachment to factor-specific receptors on cell surfaces. Receptors for many different growth factors have also been detected in human preimplantation embryos. Preimplantation embryos themselves express many growth factors. The growth factors and receptors are metabolically costly to produce, and thus their presence in the environment of the preimplantation embryo and in the embryo respectively strongly implies that embryos are designed to encounter and respond to the corresponding factors. Studies of embryo coculture also indirectly suggest that growth factors can improve in vitro development. Several animal and human studies attest to a probable beneficial effect of addition of growth factors to culture media. However, there is still ambiguity regarding the exact role of growth factors in embryonic development, the optimal dose of growth factors to be added to culture media, the combinatorial effect and endocrine of growth factors in embryonic development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastocyst / drug effects
  • Blastocyst / metabolism
  • Blastocyst / physiology
  • Culture Media / chemistry*
  • Embryo Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins* / metabolism
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins* / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Reproduction


  • Culture Media
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Receptors, Growth Factor