IVF 'may be boosted by time-lapse embryo imaging'


CARE's chief embryologist Alison Campbell explains the benefits of time-lapse imaging

Time-lapse imaging which takes thousands of pictures of developing embryos can boost the success rate of IVF, according to British research.

The method, reported in Reproductive BioMedicine Online, can be used to select embryos at low risk of defects.

Scientists at the CARE fertility group say such informed selection can improve birth rates by 56%.

Other experts say the result is exciting, but the study of 69 couples is too small to be definitive.

The research followed the couples at the CARE fertility clinic in Manchester last year, when 88 embryos were imaged and implanted.

The embryos were put into an incubator and imaged every 10-20 minutes.

Embryo screening

Continual embryo monitoring through time-lapse imaging is aimed at selecting those with the lowest risk of aneuploidy - where the cells have chromosome abnormalities. Aneuploidy is the single biggest cause of IVF failure.

But this form of embryo screening is a predictive rather than diagnostic tool.

Couples at high risk of passing on a chromosomal abnormality may prefer to have Pre-implantation Genetic Screening. This invasive test removes cells from the early embryo for analysis. It costs around £2,500 on top of the £3,000 charged for conventional IVF.

The researchers classified the embryos as low, medium or high risk of chromosome abnormalities based on their development at certain key points.

Eleven babies were born from the low risk group (61% success rate) compared to five from the medium risk group (19% success rate) and none from those deemed high risk.

"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 Prof Simon Fishel, managing director of CARE Fertility Group.

"This technology can tell us which embryo is the most viable and has the highest potential to deliver a live birth - it will have huge potential. This is almost like having the embryo in the womb with a camera on them."

In standard IVF, embryos are removed from the incubator once a day to be checked under the microscope. This means they briefly leave their temperature-controlled environment and single daily snapshots of their development are possible.

Dr Sue Avery, British Fertility Society: "We haven't really got clear clinical evidence yet"

Using the time-lapse method embryos don't leave the incubator until they are implanted allowing 5,000 images to be taken.

"Removing embryos from the incubator potentially exposes them to damage, so it must be a good thing to be able to look at the pattern of development over time.

"These results are very interesting but this is is a very small study and any interpretation of the findings must be made with caution as we are dealing with the hopes and expectations of patients," said Dr Virginia Bolton from the assisted conception unit at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

Sheena Lewis, professor of reproductive medicine at Queen's University, Belfast, said: "This may well be the technique we have been waiting for to improve embryo selection and thus success in fertility treatment.

"However, this is a small study with just 46 embryos being followed through to birth. Much more research will be needed before this becomes a routine clinical tool."

Around a dozen private and NHS clinics are using time-lapse embryo imaging. It costs around £750 in addition to about £3,000 for IVF.

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I've nothing against cancer treatment, but IVF is 20% effective at best and costs around £6000 per treatment. Being infertile does not lead to physical pain cancers do. If ppl want IVF pay fot it yourself because if you can't afford IVF treatment then you will be needing state hand outs to raise the child as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Using arguments about god and nature and saying just 'deal with it' I suspect come from men or women who do not want children. It's a very unsympathetic view when all some people want out of life is a family. There isn't some karma type reason for why some people can't have children so why shouldn't they get help? All of us use the NHS at times in our lives, as is our right.

  • Comment number 166.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    It never ceases to amaze me how cruel people can be.
    My husband has Cystic Fibrosis and as such is infertile. It has been his life's dream to become a father and unfortunately the only way for him to do that is through IVF treatment. His life is going to prematurely be taken from him, similarly to other people with chronic/life limiting illnesses, what else do you people want him to give up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    150. Bumble
    "The cl,ue is in the name, national health service. The fact you may be infertile does not affect ur general health"


    Do you not consider it may affect someone's emotional or psychological health?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    @152 D
    Rubbish. How many parents who have children and can afford to look after them well would be able to afford IVF, a lump sum of £4k+?

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Any babies I had would have had a 1in 4 chance of genetic wasting disease,as my 1st did. It is not only infertile people that can't have children naturally.
    There are many disadvantaged children needing permanent homes. I have 3 that I have adopted. I can honestly say that I feel the same love for them as the child I had carried myself, who sadly died due to his illness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Sometime people take all the precautions but the contrception fails, it is rare, but that seemed a bit of a strong and judgemental response.

    Good luck. My cousin had to have IVF treatment to conceive, she was desperate for a child and the failed IVF was emotionally devastating. The IVF did work eventually and she now has a lovely daughter. I hope it works for you too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I'd much sooner see my National Insurance payments go towards giving a couple a chance of happiness than to some layabout no-hoper who needs heart surgery due to years and years of self-abuse.

    Also, if you pay tax and nat.ins, then you're entitled. Simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    so bumble.....is it natures way of telling people who have cancer and other horrible diseases (which thankfully the NHS treat) that they should 'just deal with it'???
    or is the NHS just there to pick up the pieces of people's friday/sat nights out...

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Again we see a lot of money being spent on IVF.I don't have issues with that but what about focusing on the thousands of children and babies languishing in children homes.Yes I was one those children and believe you me its not a pleasant feeling when as a child you believe your unwanted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    153.cyprus-hound - "The NHS has far more important issues upon which to spend money than infertility treatment.Being infertile never killed anyone....."

    Except for those poor individuals who were so heart broken at not being able to concieve naturally in the days before IVF came along that they killed themselves.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    "I do not believe this or any form of infertility treatment should be available on the NHS"

    What about professional IVF couples paying taxes on behalf of many slackers and their children? Is that fair? Pay for your useless families yourselves then, end of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.


    "The NHS has far more important issues upon which to spend money than infertility treatment.Being infertile never killed anyone but,sadly,we now live in a world of entitlement where everyone has a right to whatever they want as long as someone else foots the bill."

    Yes, they have got to deal with all the drunks and obese.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    when you reply with the fostering and adoptiong route.....
    I have looked into adoption and my partner and I are not eligable, even though more than happy to adopt, also fostering is becomming a task and the hoop jumping keeps extending.
    Surely a chance to say I have tried and if it fails I have tried than not at all is my choice if the service is available to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    The NHS has far more important issues upon which to spend money than infertility treatment.Being infertile never killed anyone but,sadly,we now live in a world of entitlement where everyone has a right to whatever they want as long as someone else foots the bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    If you can't afford the IVF, you can't afford to have a child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I think there is a better case for spending NHS money on fertility treatment for couples who are having difficulty through no fault of their own than the frankly obscene amounts spent treating obesity and smoking related conditions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    'I pay into the NHS and want a chance'
    The cl,ue is in the name, national health service. The fact you may be infertile does not affect ur general health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Funny we do everything in our power to help women have children, yet do nothing to help those who DON'T want keep a child. Why?


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