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EmbryoScope monitors development of fertilized eggs, helps couples conceive

May 17, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
So much of infertility is still a mystery, particularly why some pregnancies are successful and others aren't. Now by using time lapse photography, researchers can identify the healthiest embryos to use in in vitro fertilization.

The new technology allows doctors to take a closer look at infertility and can boost success rates anywhere from 24 to 80 percent.

In vitro fertilization involves implanting an embryo cultivated in the lab.

Doctors pick the best one based on how healthy it looks after 72 hours. But if you could watch them divide and multiply, you might see some growing unevenly.

Instead of going from two to four cells, it might go from two to three. This can greatly reduce the chances of getting pregnant.

Jarri and Jeff Schwartz have been trying for three years to be parents. Their first attempt with assisted reproductive technology appeared to work.

"We got pregnant and we lost a baby at five months due to a genetic disorder," said Jarri.

Now the couple is trying in vitro fertilization. With a new device called an EmbryoScope, doctors hope it will up their chances for success.

"It's like having a high end babysitter for an embryo," said Jarri. "It's like being in the best care in the best situation."

Embryologists at Southern California Reproductive Center are one of a handful of practices nationwide to have the device in clinical use.

Using time lapse photography, the EmbryoScope records how human life develops one cell at a time.

"We can pull up the exact way in which the embryo is dividing," said Dr. Mark Surrey of the Southern California Reproductive Center.

Studies show embryos with cells that divide evenly in a timely manner have a 30 percent chance of resulting in a successful pregnancy compared to two percent in other embryos.

Another advantage is technicians don't have to keep taking the delicate embryos out of the incubator to check them. Yet picking the most perfect embryo is still not a guarantee.

"The amount of things that we don't know in our field is numerous," said Dr. Shahin Ghadir, a fertility specialist.

Jarri and Jeff's embryo did not result in a pregnancy so the couple is thinking about trying again.

"There are many patients that it doesn't work for the first cycle and the frozen embryos left over for the second cycle do very, very well," said Ghadir.

Even technology like this can't reveal all the mysteries of Mother Nature.


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