Only a fraction of oocytes present in the ovaries at birth are ever ovulated during the lifetime of a female mammal. In vitro maturation (IVM) offers the possibility to exploit what is a largely untapped biological resource. Although IVM is used routinely for the in vitro production of embryos in domestic species, especially cattle, its clinical use in human-assisted reproduction is still evolving. The successful recapitulation in vitro of the events associated with successful oocyte maturation is not always achieved, with the majority of immature oocytes typically failing to develop to the blastocyst stage. Evidence suggests that although culture conditions throughout in vitro embryo production may have a modest influence on the developmental potential of the early embryo, the quality of the oocyte at the start of the process is the key factor determining the proportion of oocytes developing to the blastocyst stage. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Animal Biosciences Volume 4 is February 15, 2016. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.
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