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Time-lapse Imaging Could Improve In Vitro Fertilization Success

Update Date: May 17, 2013 09:41 AM EDT

Due to science and technology, there are several options available for couples that cannot conceive on their own.  Methods such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy have given families the child they wanted. However, the success rate for IVF is very low and couples often end up without a baby after the hard and stressful journey of IVF. Now, according to a new study conducted by British scientists, the process of IVF might be improved through a device known as time-lapsing imaging.

The United Kingdom's CARE fertility group recruited 69 couples for its experiment and completed a total of 88 images and implantations. The scientists followed all of the couples at the CARE fertility clinic, located in Manchester. The process began by acquiring the embryos and placing them into an incubator. The device takes pictures around every 10 to 20 minutes. Since time-lapsing imaging could take pictures of the embryonic development at different stages, the scientists were able to estimate the likelihood for chromosomal abnormalities. The scientists reported that 11 infants were born from the low risk group and five infants were born from the medium risk group. The low risk group had a 61 percent success rate whereas the latter group only had a 19 percent success rate.

"This technology can tell us which embryo is the most viable and has the highest potential to deliver a live birth - it will have huge potential. This is almost like having the embryo in the womb with a camera on them," the managing director of CARE fertility group, Professor Simon Fishel said.

Time-lapsing imaging is capable of capturing thousands of pictures while the embryos are developing in order to select those with a smaller risk of defects. Time-lapsing imaging can take a total of 5,000 images before the embryo gets implanted and all of these pictures are taken while the embryos are in the incubator. The in vitro method used today takes one daily picture of the embryo as it develops. During the picture process, the doctors are required to remove the embryo from the incubator in order to be able to check it under the microscope.

"Removing embryos from the incubator potentially exposes them to damage, so it must be a good thing to be able to look at the pattern of development over time," commented Dr. Virginia Bolton from Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust's assisted conception unit.

Although CARE scientists believe that time-lapsing imaging can improve birth rates for IVF by 56 percent, other experts believe that the sample size was too small and that more research needs to be done before this technique can truly help couples improve their IVF birth rates.

The findings can be found on Reproductive BioMedicine Online.

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