Fertility Blog

IVF Lab Director Gives Talk at ESHRE

IVF programs also participated in the research, so we had good data for the London presentation. We also presented a poster at the meeting entitled “Dynamic assessment of early embryo fragmentation by time-lapse analysis may improve cell cycle timing-based embryo selection”.

Time-lapse imaging of embryos is allowing us to watch embryos very closely and see exactly how they develop in the incubator at all times. The technology allows us to image all the embryos from a single patient once every five minutes, and the software stitches together the images into a movie which is reviewed by an embryologist. The traditional method of observing embryos once a day, or once every other day provides much less information and requires embryos to be removed from the incubation environment for every observation. And remarkably, time-lapse imaging exposes embryos to significantly less light over the entire culture period than traditional observation, even though embryos are being imaged every 5 minutes. But, more importantly, time-lapse picks up developmental errors that are impossible to see without continuous monitoring, allowing us to avoid these embryos when deciding which embryo to choose for transfer.

In the London talk, I reported that we see abnormal early development in about 20% of all embryos (see Figure). These abnormalities can occasionally be overcome by embryos, but rarely result in pregnancy or live birth1. However, since the most common abnormality was a direct cleavage of a fertilized oocyte into 3-cells (instead of the normal 2-cells), the abnormal embryos often had more cells than sibling “normal” embryos in the following days and would therefore likely be selected for transfer2,3. But the benefit of video review is being able to identify and avoid these embryos, giving the embryologist the ability to select only embryos that divided normally, and in which cell divisions occurred at expected times. These are simple but huge advances for us at PFC since our philosophy is to generate healthy pregnancies, and to do it one baby (embryo) at a time. PFC is a national leader in the elective transfer of a single embryo and in the preservation of extra embryos for future use. Time-lapse imaging is now quickly becoming a critical part of the embryo selection process, since identifying the “one” embryo in a group with the highest implantation potential is a key to success.

We are continuing to develop and implement research involving time-lapse imaging, and have ongoing and new studies underway at PFC. If you are a patient and would like more information on embryo selection, ask your physician on your next visit.

  1. Rubio et al., Fertility & Sterility, 2012
  2. Conaghan et al., Fertility & Sterility, 2013
  3. Chen et al., Fertility & Sterility, 2013

- Joe Conaghan, PhD

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