New technique takes guesswork out of IVF embryo selection

August 25, 2016

Researchers at the University of Adelaide have successfully trialed a new technique that could aid the process of choosing the "best" embryo for implantation, helping to boost the chances of pregnancy success from the very first IVF cycle.

The research -- published today in the journal Molecular Reproduction and Development - has used highly advanced digital imaging techniques and mathematical modelling to show differences in the viability of embryos, which are not otherwise seen by the human eye under a microscope.

"It's fair to say that to date, strategies in IVF for picking the best embryo to transfer into the mother have been limited," says lead author Dr Hannah Brown, Postdoctoral Fellow with the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute.

"There may be a number of embryos that look almost identical, and it's up to the embryologist to make a judgment call about which of them is best -- that is, the most viable for a healthy pregnancy. That's a very difficult decision to make based on the little evidence available," she says.

"We know that many women who go through IVF aren't successful on the first cycle. This can be emotionally traumatizing and often becomes a very costly exercise depending on how many IVF cycles they go through.

"Using our knowledge of what is occurring in the biology of the embryo, we decided to see if there's more than meets the eye -- the elements we can't see that distinguish the most healthy embryos, with the best developmental potential," Dr Brown says.

The key elements Dr Brown and her colleagues have considered are the quality of the embryo's metabolism and biomarkers for DNA damage that may have occurred during the embryo's in vitro development.

With assistance from researchers in the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (an Australian Research Centre of Excellence, also based at the University of Adelaide), the team has trialed a sophisticated, digital imaging technique -- currently used for diagnosing cancer cells in patients -- and mathematical modelling to create a "texture analysis" of the differences from one embryo to the next.

"These techniques provide a depth of analysis that is not otherwise discernible by the human eye. They're intentionally non-invasive to avoid causing any potential damage to the embryo or its environment," Dr Brown says.

"We have been successful on two fronts: in determining important differences between what would appear on the surface to be almost identical embryos, and in selecting those embryos that have had the best chance of a successful pregnancy.

"As we report in this new paper, these trials were conducted with mouse embryos. This is very promising work, and we are hopeful that in the years to come such a technique could be applied to IVF procedures.

"Our ultimate aim is to make the process of IVF more successful for couples, and to help produce the healthiest pregnancy possible for the benefit of the whole family," she says.
-end-
This research has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Watch a video of Dr Hannah Brown discussing her work here.

Media Contact:

Dr Hannah Brown
Postdoctoral Fellow
Robinson Research Institute
The University of Adelaide
hannah.brown@adelaide.edu.au

University of Adelaide

Related Embryos Articles from Brightsurf:

Zebrafish embryos help prove what happens to nanoparticles in the blood
What happens to the nanoparticles when they are injected into the bloodstream, for example, to destroy solid tumours?

Artificial intelligence system developed to help better select embryos for implantation
Investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital are developing an artificial intelligence system with the goal of improving IVF success by helping embryologists objectively select embryos most likely to result in a healthy birth.

Embryos taking shape via buckling
The embryo of an animal first looks like a hollow sphere.

Who's your daddy? Male seahorses transport nutrients to embryos
New research by Dr Camilla Whittington and her team at the University of Sydney has found male seahorses transport nutrients to their developing babies during pregnancy.

Study suggests embryos could be susceptible to coronavirus
Genes that are thought to play a role in how the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects our cells have been found to be active in embryos as early as during the second week of pregnancy, say scientists at the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Spawning fish and embryos most vulnerable to climate's warming waters
Spawning fish and embryos are far more vulnerable to Earth's warming waters than fish in other life stages, according to a new study, which uniquely relates fish physiological tolerance to temperature across the lifecycles of nearly 700 fish species.

Animal embryos evolved before animals
A new study by an international team of researchers, led by scientists from the University of Bristol and Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, has discovered that animal-like embryos evolved long before the first animals appear in the fossil record.

Choosing the best embryos
Struggling with infertility? You are not alone. Infertility affects one out of every six Canadian couples.

Turtle embryos play a role in determining their own sex
In certain turtle species, the temperature of the egg determines whether the offspring is female or male.

Early in vitro testing for adverse effects on embryos
ETH researchers have combined embryonic cells and liver cells in a new cell culture test.

Read More: Embryos News and Embryos Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.