The origin and possible mechanism of embryonic cell-free DNA release in spent embryo culture media: a review

Nining Handayani, Daniel Aubry, Arief Boediono, Budi Wiweko, Batara Sirait, Ivan Sini, Arie A. Polim, Astari Dwiranti, Anom Bowolaksono

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The presence of cell-free DNA in spent embryo culture media (SECM) has unveiled its possible utilization for embryonic ploidy determination, opening new frontiers for the development of a non-invasive pre-implantation genetic screening technique. While a growing number of studies have shown a high concordance between genetic screening using cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and trophectoderm (TE), the mechanism pertaining to the release of cfDNA in SECM is largely unknown. This review aims to evaluate research evidence on the origin and possible mechanisms for the liberations of embryonic DNA in SECM, including findings on the self-correction abilities of embryos which might contribute to the presence of cfDNA. Several databases including EMBASE, PUBMED, and SCOPUS were used to retrieve original articles, reviews, and opinion papers. The keywords used for the search were related to the origins and release mechanism of cfDNA. cfDNA in SECM originates from embryonic cells and, at some levels, non-embryonic cells such as maternal DNA and exogenous foreign DNA. The apoptotic pathway has been demonstrated to eliminate aneuploid cells in developing mosaic embryos which might culminate to the release of cfDNA in SECM. Nonetheless, there is a recognized need for exploring other pathways such as cross-talk molecules called extracellular vesicles (EVs) made of small, round bi-layer membranes. During in vitro development, embryos physiologically and actively expel EVs containing not only protein and microRNA but also embryonic DNA, hence, potentially releasing cfDNA of embryonic origin into SECM through EVs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1242
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics
Issue number6
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Apoptosis
  • Cell-free DNA
  • In vitro fertilization
  • niPGT-A
  • Spent embryo culture media


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