Predicting embryo presence and viability
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Pregnancy establishment, followed by birth of live offspring, is essential to all mammals. The biological processes leading up to pregnancy establishment, maintenance, and birth are complex and dependent on the coordinated timing of a series of events at the molecular, cellular, and physiological level. The ability to ovulate a competent oocyte, which is capable of undergoing fertilization, is only the initial step in achieving a successful pregnancy. Once fertilization has occurred and early embryonic development is initiated, early pregnancy detection is critical to provide proper prenatal care (humans) or appropriate management (domestic livestock). However, the simple presence of an embryo, early in gestation, does not guarantee the birth of a live offspring. Pregnancy loss (embryonic mortality, spontaneous abortions, etc.) has been well documented in all mammals, especially in humans and domestic livestock species, and is a major cause of reproductive loss. It has been estimated that only about 25-30 % of all fertilized oocytes in humans result in birth of a live offspring; however, identifying the embryos that will not survive to parturition has not been an easy task. Therefore, investigators have focused the identification of products in maternal circulation that permit the detection of an embryo and assessment of its well-being. This review will focus on the advances in predicting embryonic presence and viability, in vivo.