Embryo Scope is Breakthrough in Treating Infertility

Device gives doctors a better look at developing embryos for IVF process

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    NEWSLETTERS

    New technology that acts as an incubator for embryos and and monitors growth with a camera, is proving to have promising results for women struggling to get pregnant. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014.

    Couples who are having trouble getting pregnant often turn to fertility specialists for help.

    One option that is often recommended by doctors is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). It’s a process where the egg is fertilized by the sperm outside the body to create embryos. The embryos are allowed to grow inside an incubator for several days until two or three of them are implanted in the womb.

    The odds of success from IVF are often less than 40 percent. One reason for the low success rate is the challenge of selecting the embryos most likely to result in a pregnancy. But now a new device called the Embryo Scope is improving the odds by giving doctors a better look at the developing embryos in real time.

    “The embryo scope allows us to take time lapse photography continuously of embryo development over six days,” said Dr. Mark Surrey, a fertility specialist at the Southern California Reproductive Center in Beverly Hills.

    In the past,a specialist had to open the incubator and perform a spot check of the embryos as the developed. The doctor would look for clues about the ones that gave the couple the best chance of getting pregnant. There was a lot of uncertainty about what was happening to the cells while in incubator. Changes from hour to hour could impact success.

    By being able to monitor the embryos in real-time inside the incubator, Surrey can study subtle changes in the cells and select the ones he wants to implant in his patients without causing stress to the developing cells.

    “By watching the way in which the cells and the embryo divide, there’s a difference between the cell divisions in a normal embryo and an abnormal embryo,” he explains. “By doing that, we can select out the embryos that are most likely to cause a pregnancy.”

    Surrey’s Los Angeles-based center is one of only 28 facilities currently using the Embryo Scope including Cleveland Clinic which has been a pioneer in using the new technology.

    “We’ve seen a drastic increase in our pregnancy rates,” said Dr. Nina Desai, who runs one of Cleveland Clinic’s IVF laboratories. “I think this is going to revolutionize the way that we practice IVF.”

    NBC4’s Dr. Bruce says: “Any couple who is having trouble getting pregnant should see a specialist. The man and the women should each be evaluated because 50 percent of fertility problems may be due to male issues. The good news is that many of these problems are treatable.” 

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