Back in the ‘80’s -‘90’s when cattle IVF began to be seriously used for breeding, and when the “large calf syndrome” was recognised as a consequence of embryo culture, the use of growth factors in medium was snubbed, as it was thought that such factors caused the syndrome.  The real truth is that some cytokines and growth factors are very supportive of embryo development and quality.  They decrease embryo ‘stress’, and reduce the incidence of cellular apoptosis (regulated cell death). 

Furthermore, cytokine and growth factor mixes can counter the need for serum in culture medium.  But there is a catch – some factors will only be effective if they are from the species of origin.  For example, GM-CSF, a cytokine found in the reproductive tract, needs to be of cattle origin when used for embryo culture.  Furthermore, different suppliers provide factors that differ in their level of ‘activity’.  Most cytokines and growth factors have an optimal concentration for a biological impact – too low or too high concentrations leads to largely no effect, but with some factors, can be detrimental.

We believe growth factors are helpful at the right source and concentration during embryo culture, particularly under serum-free conditions.  But we don’t provide the growth factors themselves, especially not as a specific medium additive (it’s an Australian regulatory issue).  Adding growth factors to our media needs to be done in consultation with us, and we cannot accept any liability for any advice given.  But if you want to learn more about cytokines and growth factors, we are happy to provide you with information that can help you make an informed decision.

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