Fertility and pregnancy * Healthy living

New embryo test could boost IVF success

New embryo test could boost IVF success Checks DNA for abnormalities

UK scientists are developing a new method of screening embryos which could dramatically boost IVF success rates.

Currently, around 30 per cent of IVF treatments results in a live birth, partly because of problems accurately selecting healthy IVF embryos for implantation into the womb.

Scientists at Oxford University are developing a technique which includes checking IVF embryos for abnormalities on DNA located at the end of chromosomes, known as telomeres.

Chromosomal abnormality is one of the major reasons why embryo implantation fails. It can also lead to miscarriage.

The scientists will also check the embryo for healthy mitochondria, tiny cellular organelles which act as the cell's power house.

The same team of scientists also pioneered a technique which allows five day-old embryos to be checked for the correct number of chromosomes before being implanted in the womb.

Taken together, the tests should maximise the chances of selecting a healthy embryo for implantation.

Dr Dagan Wells, who led the study, said: "The vast majority of embryos transferred worldwide have no genetic screening and 85 per cent of these fail to establish a pregnancy.

"If you transfer to the uterus embryos that are confirmed to be chromosomally normal and develop well, reaching the blastocyst stage, the chance of producing a child is very high, about 70 per cent.

"But that still leaves 30 per cent that don't make it. Why? We need a better understanding of the biology, allowing us to bridge that gap and approach 100 per cent success."

Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: "This exciting novel technique is taking the molecular assessment of the embryo to a new level, and clearly is an important tool for research into embryo health.

"Selecting the right embryo for replacement in a cost effective, reproducible manner potentially has enormous benefits for patients, clinics and the health service overall.

"Of course, as with any new technology, appropriate clinical studies are required to ensure that the benefits are realised. The difficulty we face is making sure adequate funding is made available to allow this new technique to be assessed fully before it enters into clinical practice."

The research findings will be presented at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Orlando, Florida.

This article was published on Tue 18 October 2011

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