Assessing the practice of LuPOR for poor responders: a prospective study evaluating follicular fluid cfDNA levels during natural IVF cycles

Sfakianoudis Konstantinos, Tsioulou Petroula, Maziotis Evangelos, Giannelou Polina, Glava Argyro, Grigoriadis Sokratis, Rapani Anna, Nezos Andrianos, Pantou Agni, Koutsilieris Michael, Pantos Konstantinos, Mastorakos George, Simopoulou Mara

Purpose The aim of this study is to provide data on the practice of Luteal Phase Oocyte Retrieval (LuPOR). The authors assess cell-free DNA levels in follicular fluid (ff cfDNA) from poor responders undergoing natural cycles, and comparing it to respective data originating from follicular phase oocyte retrievals.
Methods Forty-seven women were eligible for this prospective study. Participants were classified as poor responders based on Bologna criteria while being detected with a second follicular wave. Follicular fluid was collected and prepared for cfDNA extraction. Levels of cfDNA were quantified via Q-PCR employing the ALU115 and ALU247 primers. These primers are associated with apoptotic and necrotic events. Levels of ff cfDNA resulting from follicular phase oocyte retrieval (FoPOR) and LuPOR-performed in a single menstrual cycle were associated with the number and maturation status of yielded oocytes and the number and fertilization status of resulting zygotes. Survival rate following thawing of cryopreserved zygotes, along with the resulting number of cleavage stage and blastocyst stage embryos are provided.
Results Mean levels of ALU115 were significantly lower during FoPOR when compared to LuPOR (0.79 ± 0.72 vs 1.46 ± 1.59 ng/μl, p = 0.02). Regarding the FoPOR group, a significant positive correlation of serum estradiol and ALU115 concentration (p = 0.04) was revealed. A significant negative correlation between serum estradiol and cfDNA integrity was observed both during FoPOR (p = 0.03) and LuPOR (p = 0.03). A significant lower number of retrieved (1.09 ± 0.28 vs 1.29 ± 0.58, p =0.02) and MII oocytes (0.77 ± 0.55 vs 1.08 ± 0.61, p = 0.02) was observed when comparing the FoPOR to LuPOR groups respectively. The integrity of cfDNA was observed to be higher in FoPOR originating embryos that arrested either prior to cleavage (0.28 ± 0.13 vs 0.17 ± 0.10, p = 0.006) or prior to blastocyst formation (0.28 ± 0.12 vs 0.13 ± 0.06, p = 0.04). In the case of LuPOR originating embryos, cfDNA integrity was observed to be higher in embryos that arrested only prior to the blastocyst stage (0.27 ± 0.20 vs 0.11 ± 0.07, p = 0.008). Similarly, cfDNA integrity was observed to be lower in top quality blastocysts originating from FoPOR (0.07 ± 0.04 vs 0.17 ± 0.05, p = 0.03) and in top quality cleavage stage embryos (0.09 ± 0.06 vs 0.31 ± 0.22, p = 0.01) and blastocysts (0.06 ± 0.02 vs 0.14 ± 0.06, p = 0.02) originating from LuPOR.
Conclusions Our results indicate that ff originating from LuPOR presents with higher levels of cfDNA. The higher cfDNA levels are attributed to mainly apoptotic events, as the ALU247 levels and DNA integrity did not differ statistically significantly between FoPOR and LuPOR. The absolute mean level of ALU247 corresponding to necrotic events was higher in LuPOR. Regarding embryological data, cfDNA integrity was correlated with both number and quality of cleavage stage embryos in both FoPOR and LuPOR, along with blastocyst stage embryos in LuPOR. Necrotic events were associated with poorer blastocyst formation rate and blastocyst quality in LuPOR. As the comparison between FoPOR and LuPOR results to similar IVF laboratory data, the practice of LuPOR may stand as a promising approach for poor responders, while it merits further investigation.

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