19 May 2013

Embryoscope – minute by minute view of an embryo’s development

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Melbourne IVF

As reported by ABC News, British researchers say they have invented an improved technique for IVF that involves thousands of time-lapse photos during the earliest stages of embryo development.  Australian IVF specialists at Melbourne IVF are also working on pioneering digital time lapsed imagery technology (embryoscope), which may improve success rates for women using IVF to fall pregnant.

The Embryoscope combines an incubator, a microscope and a time-lapse camera to provide IVF specialists with a continuous record of an embryo’s development, instead of the traditional method, which involves removing embryos from their incubator once a day and observing them under a microscope.

The technology has been successfully used in Europe where it was developed, and more recently in the US.

“This technology offers hope for more successful IVF treatments and for women who have experienced repeated IVF failure,” said Dr Lyndon Hale, Medical Director, Melbourne IVF.

“The continuous record of embryo development provided by the Embryoscope is extremely valuable. Having more information about the development of an embryo helps us to better distinguish which embryos are more likely to result in a successful pregnancy,” Dr Hale said.

Typically fertilised embryos are removed from an incubator once a day and examined under a microscope to observe developmental progress during the 3-5 days they are in the laboratory before being transferred back to the woman. With a continuous record now available via the use of Embryoscope, scientific specialists are able to identify optimal patterns of development or abnormalities in an embryo’s growth that may be indicative of the embryo’s future development and that may have previously gone undetected.

In addition, the reduced handling and manipulation of the embryos may contribute to improved embryo viability.

“The Embryoscope provides clinicians with a depth of information about embryo quality that simply wasn’t available previously, this can make a real difference in helping us identify the best embryo to implant,” Dr David Edgar, Scientific Director at Melbourne IVF said.

“For example, it means we can track with greater precision the sequence and time in which cell division is taking place. Both of these factors appear to have a bearing on the chance of achieving a successful pregnancy. We can also identify factors which may influence a decision to not select a particular embryo for implantation,” Dr Edgar said.

Each Embryoscope is capable of incubating 72 embryos at a time, which means it can be used to assist up to six women simultaneously.

While Embryoscope technology is currently being deployed at Melbourne IVF clinics and IVFAustralia clinics in Sydney, we are gathering data on IVF candidates’ clinical indicators and IVF history to determine which patients may receive the most benefit from the Embryoscope before the technology will be widely available for clinical use.

“We anticipate a growing application of this technology in the future,” said Dr Edgar. “This superior incubator gives us an enormous amount of information. For example we are able to view an embryo’s development for 7200 minutes during their 5 day development compared with the standard 6 minutes. We are gathering data to determine the full potential of the technology to decide which patient circumstances and conditions would most benefit from the use of the Embryoscope.”

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