New Technology- Embryoscope
Time-lapse video reveals secret life of an embryo, helps women conceive
It is estimated that around one in four couples around the world have trouble conceiving. For a small proportion of them, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a technology that can restore the dream of parenthood. IVF is the fertilization of an egg by sperm outside the body, where it is cultivated in a lab environment, and if an embryo results it is implanted into the mother’s womb. Now the chances of IVF treatment being successful are being boosted by a machine called the Embryoscope.
Since the inception of IVF in the 1970s, monitoring embryos has been a difficulty. In order to examine them, the embryologist must remove them from the safe environment of the incubator and expose them to environmental hazards such as temperature changes and contaminants. Embryos are removed and examined just once a day, which limits the information available to embryologists, as well as the chances of picking the embryo with the best chance of delivering a viable pregnancy.
But these longstanding issues are being addressed by the Embryoscope. The device combines an incubator that maintains perfect conditions, with a tiny camera that takes photos every 10-15 minutes – creating a time-lapse video of the embryo’s development. This removes the need to expose the embryo to the outside atmosphere, and provides embryologists with far greater information with which to make decisions.
I think this is the most exciting breakthrough since IVF started.
Dr. Simon Fishel, managing director of the UK’s CARE Fertility, responsible for the first Embryoscope baby born in the UK, in 2012 (as well as the first ever IVF baby back in 1978). “The information that we are gathering with the Embryoscope with the time-lapse is far superior,” he says. Embryos that show early abnormalities can be immediately ruled out, and learning algorithms have been created that recognize positive or negative patterns at key development points thereafter – meaning patients can be implanted with embryos that have an optimal chance of success.
“We have a predictive scale (for evaluating) the likelihood of an embryo to give the best chance of a live birth,” says Fishel. “It’s a complex procedure and it uses very complex technology and some mathematics. But using this whole process, it really changes the way the embryologists work in the lab. And I think it’s changing the face of how we do IVF, in fact.”