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Embryo imaging to boost chances of IVF success

Health & Medical

HIGHLY advanced digital imaging techniques will be used to zoom in on embryos to help in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) doctors boost the chances of becoming pregnant.

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Researchers from the University of Adelaide in South Australia developed the new embryo selection technique by using the combination of mathematical modelling and embryo imaging to analyse the texture of the embryo cells.

Lead researcher Hanna Brown said the new method would take the pressure off of embryologists who previously relied on a ranking system based on growth rate and the number of cells in the embryo.

“We hope that the outcome might be to shorten the time it might take for a couple to get pregnant by IVF. We know that every time a couple has an IVF process and an embryo transfer that it is not always successful,” she said.

“It’s completely non-invasive which is new. We have had no technologies like that currently in the clinic and it’s virtually free.

“We hope that by learning more about embryos and being able to pick a better embryo that we can help more couples become pregnant in the first cycle and there will be less financial and emotional burden on the couples.”

The new technique incorporates technology used for the diagnosis of cancer cells in patients and a mathematical model called grey level co-occurant matrices to determine the texture of the embryo.

Researchers were able to conclude how rough or smooth the surface of an embryo was and whether it was heterogeneous. The combination of the two are essential to pick the ideal embryo.

Previously there had been issues of too many embryos selected with the same score but this procedure allows doctors to have more information when making a selection. This could increase the success rate of IVF treatments during the first cycle.

Dr Brown said the embryo’s metabolism and DNA were used to help understand more about the analysis and confirm its success.

“Metabolism is how the embryo makes energy for itself and we know that there is an optimum level of energy production that makes a great embryo,” she said.

“We use metabolism as a biological readout for ourselves to try and interpret what we were learning from the statistical modelling.

“These techniques provide a depth of analysis that is not otherwise discernable by the human eye. They're intentionally non-invasive to avoid causing any potential damage to the embryo or its environment.”

Dr Brown said the investigation was conducted using mice embryos but could easily transition towards clinical studies because it was a non-invasive procedure.

This research was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and published in the journal Molecular Reproduction and Development.

South Australia’s capital Adelaide has three long-standing public universities, Flinders UniversityUniversity of South Australia, and the University of Adelaide, each of which are consistently rated highly in the international higher education rankings.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story. Copied to Clipboard

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