Before the introduction of in vitro fertilization, many couples remained childless or resorted to adoption. The invention of the Nobel Prize wining IVF procedure now provides infertile couples with what often times seems like a miracle.
According to Newswise, recent advances involving in vitro fertilization research means more good news for infertile couples longing to have a family. Scientists from the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan developed a method of carefully evaluating embryos that might have the greatest likelihood of viability before implantation occurs. The discovery has the potential for increasing IVF success rates while decreasing the overall cost of the treatment. Additionally, by increasing the chances of a positive outcome, the stress of waiting and wondering are also greatly reduced.
Current in vitro fertilization methods involve combining eggs with sperm in test tubes. Once fertilization occurs, the embryos are then implanted into the uterus at a fertility clinic. As women often require multiple implantation procedures before a successful pregnancy occurs, the process is emotionally exhausting, time-consuming and extremely expensive. The cost of a single procedure can run up to $12,000. The innovative technique developed by university researchers encourages the growth of fertilized eggs in addition to equipping laboratory specialists with the ability to select the highest quality of embryos.
Once fertilized, the embryos are typically grouped together in drops of fluid before implantation. While the grouping method is efficient, technicians are unable to make specific selections. The Taiwanese difference entails using a microwell culture process. Once eggs are fertilized, they are placed on a plate containing open microwells. Each well receives only one or two embryos. Technicians then apply a layer of oil over the plate, which prevents the embryos from moving from one location to another. The delicate embryos are then safe in their own protected environment. By keeping the individual embryos separated, the characteristics of each specimen is more easily assessed.
As the embryos grow, the scientists use high-resolution imaging in a time-lapsed mode to evaluate each developing culture. The microwell process proved successful in encouraging embryonic growth while enabling the researchers to more accurately determine which embryos would later transform into blastocysts. The screening then cuts the number of IVF procedures needed before pregnancy occurred. The targeted approach also reduces the number of eggs needed to complete the fertilization process, which decreases expense.
Although the initial studies involved mouse embryos, the team of researchers remain hopeful that the findings would soon benefit humans who seek the assistance of a fertility clinic. Through ongoing experiments, scientists can modify the process to safely use microwell cultures for human embryos.