Clinical Application of Antioxidants to Improve Human Oocyte Mitochondrial Function: A Review

Rodriguez-Varela, C, Labarta, E,
Antioxidants (Basel). Nov. 2020 doi: 10.3390/antiox9121197


Mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) while also generating high amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS) derived from oxygen metabolism. ROS are small but highly reactive molecules that can be detrimental if unregulated. While normally functioning mitochondria produce molecules that counteract ROS production, an imbalance between the amount of ROS produced in the mitochondria and the capacity of the cell to counteract them leads to oxidative stress and ultimately to mitochondrial dysfunction. This dysfunction impairs cellular functions through reduced ATP output and/or increased oxidative stress. Mitochondrial dysfunction may also lead to poor oocyte quality and embryo development, ultimately affecting pregnancy outcomes. Improving mitochondrial function through antioxidant supplementation may enhance reproductive performance. Recent studies suggest that antioxidants may treat infertility by restoring mitochondrial function and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis. However, further randomized, controlled trials are needed to determine their clinical efficacy. In this review, we discuss the use of resveratrol, coenzyme-Q10, melatonin, folic acid, and several vitamins as antioxidant treatments to improve human oocyte and embryo quality, focusing on the mitochondria as their main hypothetical target. However, this mechanism of action has not yet been demonstrated in the human oocyte, which highlights the need for further studies in this field.