When you take a look at what’s really going on in that little petri dish, where that scientific dating game called in vitro fertilization (IVF) is taking place, you may not like what you see. For the first three days of embryo development embryologists and RE’s are able to take a look at what’s going on and see if anything is going wrong . Embryos that look good – with a good shape and rapidly dividing cells – get the go ahead and may be used for the upcoming embryo transfer, or frozen if the women’s lining is not ready yet (or she is waiting to begin motherhood). The embryos that are misshapen, or multiply into odd cell numbers, are not used. Embryos that are growing in odd cell numbers may not be healthy, and studies suggest those abnormalities may indicate the embryos would not be as likely to eventually form a promising blastocyst, a rapidly dividing ball of over 100 cells.
Embryologists can check on the potential embryo in those early days by removing it from its incubator, placing it on a slide and scrutinizing it under a microscope, a morphological analysis, but this is highly subjective. Where you do IVF should have a top-notch embryologist.
Barry Behr , who directs IVF studies, has created a new test: Early Embryo Viability Assessment (EEVA), a technology designed to analyze embryos and help embryologists select the embryos most likely to grow out to a healthy blastocyst, and to become a healthy child. Does this test result in more pregnancies and live births, and healthier babies? The jury is still out, and more randomized controlled studies need to be done.
Using the EEVA test involves using a time-lapse camera inside the incubator so that it can take photos of the embryo every couple of minutes for 48 hours. That data is analyzed according to a specialized algorithm, and graded. Scientists think that using this along with traditional morphology evaluation may help in making better decisions about which embryo to chose.
The studies seem promising, although a blastocyst does not a baby make. Even after selecting a high-grade embryo, there are no guarantees. Problematic hormonal imbalances can effect the uterus at the time of implantation and can block the embryo from implanting. In a few years scientists hope that this test is improved and they can start seeing what clearly results in a successful pregnancy from blastocyst and what does not. Until then, embryologists still have the brunt of the work to do, and California is lucky to be home to some of the best embryologists worldwide.
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