Adelaide researchers unveil new predictors of IVF success
Aug 26, 2016 | News | by Learning Press staff
Researchers at the University of Adelaide have successfully trialled a technique that could aid the process of choosing the best embryo for IVF implantation, helping to boost the chances of pregnancy success from the first cycle.
The research - published today in the journal Molecular Reproduction and Development - used digital imaging techniques and mathematical modelling to show differences in the viability of mouse embryos which were 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 of UA’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,” she said.
“That's a very difficult decision to make based on the little evidence available.
"We know that many women who go through IVF aren't successful on the first cycle.
“This can be emotionally traumatising 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.”
The key elements researchers considered were the quality of an embryo's metabolism and biomarkers for DNA damage that may have occurred during its in vitro development.
The team trialled a combination of digital imaging techniques 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,” said Dr Brown.
“They're non-invasive to avoid causing any potential damage to the embryo or its environment.
"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.
"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."
The research was subsidised by the federally-funded National Health and Medical Research Council.