The process of in-vitro fertilization/embryo transfer (IVF-ET) is constantly improving through the introduction of new assisted reproductive technologies. Yet, there is still much room for improving pregnancy rates, especially in older women. Among the stages of IVF-ET that include ovarian stimulation, fertilization, culture of embryos, and implantation the last one is considered the rate limiting step. Implantation failure accounts for at least 50% of unsuccessful human IVF-ET cycles. A key component in a successful implantation is the ability of the embryo to properly adhere to the uterine endometrium and initiate embryo-maternal interactions. One of the reasons behind unsuccessful implantations is the failure to develop a sticky matrix between the blastocyst and endometrium. The current popular supplements to transfer media that aim to improve embryo adhesion have not shown statically significant improvement.
Testing for compounds that improve embryo-endometrium adhesion in-vivo takes time, requires many animals and is laborious while standard in-vitro assays in a dish lack many of the physiological properties of the biological system. In this work, we will develop a microfluidics setup that will allow us to measure the effect of mucoadhesive polymers on the ability of mouse embryos to adhere to the endometrium cell layer. Besides adhesion, we will be able to measure the toxicity of the polymers and their effect on the embryo development at the single cell level. This system will allow us to develop new mucoadhesives based on alginate with addition of biological adhesion sequence. Our system will provide a platform for rapidly developing new ‘bio-glues’ that can be further tested in vivo.