In vitro maturation (IVM) of oocytes followed by fertilization in vitro (IVF) and embryo transfer offers an alternative to conventional IVF treatment that minimises drug administration and avoids ovarian hyperstimulation. However, the technique is less efficient than maturation in vivo. In the present study, a non-human primate model was used to address the hypothesis that the number of oocytes is increased and their nuclear and cytoplasmic maturity after IVM are improved when maturation is initiated in vivo by priming with hCG.
Young, adult cynomolgus monkeys were given recombinant human (rh) gonadotropins to stimulate the development of multiple follicles, and oocytes were aspirated 0, 12, 24, or 36 h after injection of an ovulatory dose of rhCG. The nuclear status of oocytes was determined at the time of recovery and after culture for a total elapsed time of 40–44 hours after hCG.
Priming with hCG significantly increased the number of oocytes harvested, especially after delaying aspiration for 24 h or longer. Nuclear maturation after the full period in culture was also enhanced by priming: 71.5, 83.6, and 94.6% of oocytes collected at 0, 12, and 24 h hCG had progressed to MII by the end of the culture period, compared to 87.8% of oocytes that were retrieved at 36 h. A large proportion of oocytes reaching the MII stage had either or both abnormal spindles (>40%) and misaligned chromosomes (>60%), judging by immunofluorescence microscopy, but these abnormalities were independent of culture time. The mitochondria were evenly distributed throughout the cytoplasm at all stages of maturation. Importantly, there was no microscopic evidence that the duration of culture had any injurious effects on the cells.
In conclusion, the evidence supports this non-human primate as a model for human IVM and the practice of priming with hCG to promote developmental potential.