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01.12.2017 | Review | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Journal of Ovarian Research 1/2017

Is the hypothesis of preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) still supportable? A review

Journal of Ovarian Research > Ausgabe 1/2017
Norbert Gleicher, Raoul Orvieto


The hypothesis of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGS) was first proposed 20 years ago, suggesting that elimination of aneuploid embryos prior to transfer will improve implantation rates of remaining embryos during in vitro fertilization (IVF), increase pregnancy and live birth rates and reduce miscarriages. The aforementioned improved outcome was based on 5 essential assumptions: (i) Most IVF cycles fail because of aneuploid embryos. (ii) Their elimination prior to embryo transfer will improve IVF outcomes. (iii) A single trophectoderm biopsy (TEB) at blastocyst stage is representative of the whole TE. (iv) TE ploidy reliably represents the inner cell mass (ICM). (v) Ploidy does not change (i.e., self-correct) downstream from blastocyst stage. We aim to offer a review of the aforementioned assumptions and challenge the general hypothesis of PGS. We reviewed 455 publications, which as of January 20, 2017 were listed in PubMed under the search phrase < preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) for aneuploidy>. The literature review was performed by both authors who agreed on the final 55 references. Various reports over the last 18 months have raised significant questions not only about the basic clinical utility of PGS but the biological underpinnings of the hypothesis, the technical ability of a single trophectoderm (TE) biopsy to accurately assess an embryo’s ploidy, and suggested that PGS actually negatively affects IVF outcomes while not affecting miscarriage rates. Moreover, due to high rates of false positive diagnoses as a consequence of high mosaicism rates in TE, PGS leads to the discarding of large numbers of normal embryos with potential for normal euploid pregnancies if transferred rather than disposed of. We found all 5 basic assumptions underlying the hypothesis of PGS to be unsupported: (i) The association of embryo aneuploidy with IVF failure has to be reevaluated in view how much more common TE mosaicism is than has until recently been appreciated. (ii) Reliable elimination of presumed aneuploid embryos prior to embryo transfer appears unrealistic. (iii) Mathematical models demonstrate that a single TEB cannot provide reliable information about the whole TE. (iv) TE does not reliably reflect the ICM. (v) Embryos, likely, still have strong innate ability to self-correct downstream from blastocyst stage, with ICM doing so better than TE. The hypothesis of PGS, therefore, no longer appears supportable. With all 5 basic assumptions underlying the hypothesis of PGS demonstrated to have been mistaken, the hypothesis of PGS, itself, appears to be discredited. Clinical use of PGS for the purpose of IVF outcome improvements should, therefore, going forward be restricted to research studies.
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