Embryo imaging has long been a critical tool for in vitro fertilization laboratories, aiding in morphological assessment of embryos, which remains the primary tool for embryo selection. With the recent emergence of clinically applicable real-time imaging systems to assess embryo morphokinetics, a renewed interest has emerged regarding noninvasive methods to assess gamete and embryo development as a means of inferring quality. Several studies exist that utilize novel imaging techniques to visualize or quantify intracellular components of gametes and embryos with the intent of correlating localization of organelles or molecular constitution with quality or outcome. However, the safety of these approaches varies due to the potential detrimental impact of light exposure or other variables. Along with complexity of equipment and cost, these drawbacks currently limit clinical application of these novel microscopes and imaging techniques. However, as evidenced by clinical incorporation of some real-time imaging devices as well as use of polarized microscopy, some of these imaging approaches may prove to be useful. This review summarizes the existing literature on novel imaging approaches utilized to examine gametes and embryos. Refinement of some of these imaging systems may permit clinical application and serve as a means to offer new, noninvasive selection tools to improve outcomes for various assisted reproductive technology procedures.
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Vol. 89 • No. 4