New test to dramatically increase chance of IVF success

Computer artwork of cells The new technique allows the viability of embroys to be tested without damaging them

A new screening technique to test embryos could dramatically increase the chances of having a baby from IVF.

The test allows for any chromosomal abnormalities, the biggest cause of early pregnancy loss, to be picked up in embryos before they are reimplanted.

The UK-based researchers expect the technique to double or triple current IVF success rates.

Trials of the technique are being lead by fertility specialists at CARE Fertility in Manchester.

Three British women in their late 30s are due to give birth in late December after using the pioneering technique.

Chromosomal abnormalities are the biggest cause of early pregnancy loss, responsible for 70% of pregnancies not carrying on to term.

Those kinds of abnormalities are a significant cause of pregnancy failures in all pregnancies including those in IVF.

Now this new technique allows the viability of embroys to be tested without damaging them.

CARE director Simon Fishel told Claudia Hammond from the BBC's Health Check that the test allows for significant improvement on current methods.

So now they can reimplant embryos that will go on to achieve a successful, sustainable pregnancy.

"Stupendous difference"

"Before we would look down a microscope and see five, six, maybe 10 embryos knowing that half are chromosomally abnormal but there's no way of testing it.

"We now we have an objective test that is related to the health of the pregnancy," he told the BBC.

Start Quote

We will see a paradigm shift in what we're doing in IVF I believe in the coming years, due to work that's now maturing in the next 6 to 12 months”

End Quote Simon Fishel CARE Fertility

In IVF the embryo reaches a stage called the blastocyst at day five.

This is a day or so before it would normally implant in the womb and when it is reimplanted in IVF.

"At this stage, the embryo has two parts," said Mr Fishel. "A tiny ball of cells which will become the baby and an outer layer of cells that becomes the placenta.

"At this stage we can do a tiny biopsy of those placental cells. So we don't even touch the cells that are going to become the baby itself.

"We can then analyse all the chromosomes that would tell us about the cells that make the baby at the latest time before it goes back into the womb.

"This information seems to make a massive difference up to a doubling or tripling of pregnancy rates. And more importantly the implantation rates.

"In other words, each embryo is much more efficient at implanting and maintaining that pregnancy," Mr Fishel told the BBC.

"Currently IVF success rates are related entirely to the woman's age. So at the moment a woman of 40 who had a 10% chance of pregnancy will probably be as high as 30% so that's trebling that pregnancy rate.

"If she was 30, we may be getting her pregnancy rates up from 30 or 40% to doubling that to even maybe as high as 70 or 80%. It's making a stupendous difference.

"We will see a paradigm shift in what we're doing in IVF I believe in the coming years, due to work that's now maturing in the next 6 to 12 months."

You can hear more about the research on Health Check on the BBC World Service.

Or listen to the programme later on the BBC iPlayer.

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