ABSTRACT

Microfluidics can be considered both a science and a technology. It is defined as the study of fluid behavior at a sub-microliter level and the investigation into its application to cell biology, chemistry, genetics, molecular biology and medicine. There are at least two characteristics of microfluidics, mechanical and biochemical, which can be influential in the field of mammalian gamete and preimplantation embryo biology. These microfluidic characteristics can assist in basic biological studies on sperm, oocyte and preimplantation embryo structure, function and environment. The mechanical and biochemical characteristics of microfluidics may also have practical and/or technical application(s) to assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in rodents, domestic species, endangered species and humans. This review will consider data in mammals, and when available humans, addressing the potential application(s) of microfluidics to assisted reproduction. There are numerous sequential steps in the clinical assisted reproductive laboratory process that work, yet could be improved. Cause and effect relations of procedural inefficiencies can be difficult to identify and/or remedy. Data will be presented that consider microfluidic applications to sperm isolation, oocyte cumulus complex isolation, oocyte denuding, oocyte mechanical manipulation, conventional insemination, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, embryo culture, embryo analysis and oocyte and embryo cryopreservation. While these studies have progressed in animal models, data with human gametes and embryos are significantly lacking. These data from clinical trials are requisite for making future evidence-based decisions regarding the application of microfluidics in human ART.

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