Label-free assessment of pre-implantation embryo quality by the Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy (FLIM)-phasor approach
Development of quantitative, safe and rapid techniques for assessing embryo quality provides significant advances in Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). We apply the phasor-FLIM method to capture endogenous fluorescent biomarkers of pre-implantation embryos as a non-morphological caliber for embryo quality. Here, we identify the developmental, or 'D-trajectory', that consists of fluorescence lifetime from different stages of mouse pre-implantation embryos. The D-trajectory correlates with intrinsic fluorescent species from a distinctive energy metabolism and oxidized lipids, as seen with Third Harmonic Generation (THG) that changes over time. In addition, we have defined an Embryo Viability Index (EVI) to distinguish pre-implantation embryo quality using the Distance Analysis, a machine learning algorithm to process the fluorescence lifetime distribution patterns. We show that the phasor-FLIM approach provides a much-needed non-invasive quantitative technology for identifying healthy embryos at the early compaction stage with 86% accuracy. This may increase embryo implantation success for in vitro fertilization clinics.
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