A novel kind of non-invasive technology has been created which permits precise recognition of healthy embryos at an earlier developmental stage, according to scientists at Fertility 2013.

The team refers to their new development as Eeva (Early Embryo Viability Assessment). It may result in more favorable outcomes as well as reduce the requirement to move more than one embryo into the womb.

This would cause the rate of multiple pregnancies to drop, the most important risk factor in IVF treatment for both mother and child. The time that the embryos spend in the synthetic environment of the lab may also decrease with this new technology.

Standard procedures that evaluate embryos depend on a restricted number of static examinations made on consecutive days.

Embryos are currently left to develop for 5 or 6 days in an artificial setting to see which ones thrive so scientists can identify the workable ones. Then, experts know which embryos should be re-implanted back into the woman’s womb.

By taking pictures of the embryo every 5 minutes, the Eeva test uses time-lapse technology so that it can monitor every cell division that takes place.

With this method, any abnormalities that appear (for instance, a nonuniform appearance or developmental profile) can be identified by a software program during the time of the culture and determine which embryos can flourish after less than a few days in the lab.

A team of investigators at the Pacific Fertility Center1 (USA) and the Hewitt Fertility Centre in Liverpool UK analyzed the viability predictions that Eeva made on the third day and compared them to predictions made by standard manual procedures. The researchers tested 298 embryos from 30 individuals.

The research indicates that with a high level of reliability, Eeva can predict which embryos are most feasible, displaying a specificity (the capability to recognize negative results) of 79% and a positive predictive value (amount of positive test results that are real positives) of 54%.

According to the authors, using Eeva alongside standard procedures is notably more beneficial than using just standard procedures.

The precision of the test performance is constant across laboratory protocols, clinical practice styles, and procedures.

The new development has the potential to be very valuable, permitting more precise recognition of healthy embryos to be implanted back into a woman’s womb.

The researchers believe that Eeva will help make fertility treatments more successful and cause a reduction in the rate of multiple pregnancies.

A study now needs to be conducted to compare the implantation rates of embryos selected by Eeva with the ones selected by standard procedures.

Dr Joe Conaghan, Laboratory Director at the Pacific Fertility Center, explained:

“This non-invasive test represents a major step forward in our ability to assess the viability of embryos. It means we can identify which embryos are developing correctly at an earlier stage. With further development and testing, this technique has the potential to help us allow more women to have single embryo transfer, the most effective method of decreasing the multiple pregnancy rate.”

Embryologist Hannah Marsden, from the Hewitt Fertility Centre in Liverpool, concluded:

“New time-lapse imaging techniques are set to revolutionise the field of embryology. They allow us to study embryo development non-invasively, in detail and more quickly compared to earlier methods. This study is a great start as it confirms that the Eeva system is able to predict the viability of embryos with a high degree of reliability.”

Written by Sarah Glynn