A new method of performing in vitro fertilization (IVF), one of the most common medical interventions used to help infertile couples become pregnant, has shown promising initial success rates. Developed in London, the new technique involves taking time-lapse photos of embryos as they develop, enabling doctors to choose the most "low-risk" embryos--with the lowest probability of having chromosomal abnormalities or other defects that could stop their growth--to transfer into a hopeful mother-to-be. NBC News has more:
In their study, published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online, the team's chances of producing a successful live birth after in-vitro fertilization (IVF) were increased by 56 percent using the new technique compared to the standard method of selecting embryos that look best through a microscope.
"In the 35 years I have been in this field, this is probably the most exciting and significant development that can be of value to all patients seeking IVF," said Simon Fishel, a leading fertility doctor and director at the IVF clinic operator CARE Fertility where the technique is being developed.
Independent scientists not involved in the work welcomed it as a significant advance but said full randomized controlled trials - the gold standard in medicine - should be conducted before it is adopted as mainstream practice.
"This paper is interesting because we really do need to make advances in selecting the best embryos created during IVF," said Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, chair of the British Fertility Society.
"The idea of monitoring embryo development more closely is being used increasingly in clinics around the world and so it is good to see the science involved submitted to peer review and publication," he added. "All too often, developments in IVF are trumpeted as advances when they remain unproven."
Experts say that today, as many as 1 to 2 percent of babies in the Western world are conceived through IVF. The standard methods of selecting embryos are based largely on what they look like through a microscope, and many IVF cycles fail because the embryo chosen and transferred to the womb fails to develop.
Image: Petri dish containing embryos, via Shutterstock