March 23, 2009
Embryo Culture Test Identifies Better Embryos To Implant

Testing the fluid in which an embryo grows provides insight into whether it is worth implanting into a uterus.

The technology: Metabolomic testing reveals trace molecules remaining after an array of cellular processes. Previous studies have shown that metabolomic profiling can be used to identify unique biomarkers left behind by embryos in culture, which foretell the embryos with the highest reproductive potential in IVF. "Think of it as a sort of smog test for the embryo," said Behr. "It tells you how clean the engine is burning, and whether there are any problems."

The study: The study involved extracting eggs from 43 women, incubating them in culture for three hours and then examining their metabolomic results before fertilization. The researchers then documented what happened to each egg: Whether it was fertilized, the quality of the resulting embryo on days three and five, and whether it led to a successful pregnancy.

Publication: The study appeared in the February issue of Reproductive Biomedicine Online. Behr is the senior author; Jennifer Dasig, an embryologist at Stanford, is one of the co-authors.

The findings: The researchers established a correlation between the number of particular trace elements left behind by the eggs and both embryo viability and pregnancy rates. "This shows we can predict embryo development and viability from the egg," said Behr.

Why does this matter? Unless you are the (foolish) Octomom you probably don't want to give birth to multiple babies. The greater the number of fetuses in the womb the smaller each will be, the more likelihood of birth complications (e.g. premature birth) and the lower the intellectual level and health of resulting fully grown children.

The problem with in vitro fertilization (IVF) is that women who try IVF want to start a pregnancy but don't know how many embryos they need to succeed. Their biological clock is ticking and many are in their 30s with declining fertility. Their eggs and wombs are aging. Methods that more accurately identify which of several embryos to implant will increase success rates while simultaneously reducing multiple birth pregnancies. This is a double win.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 March 23 11:39 PM  Biotech Reproduction

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