New method analyzes embryo viability

By analyzing the waste product of an embryo, scientists can now predict which embryos are best suited for in vitro fertilization (IVF).

“In a sense, we look at the poop and pee from the embryo,” said co-researcher Michael Tucker. “It’s like a urine sample at the doctor’s office.”

Yale School of Medicine professor Emre Seli and his colleagues have developed a quick, noninvasive test called ViaMetrics-E to evaluate a embryo’s viability. The new technique analyzes the metabolism, which is a measure of physical and chemical activity, of embryos by examining the waste they release.

Current methods of determining embryo viability, Seli said, require doctors to look at the shape and size of each embryo under a microscope. Because this method is inaccurate, Seli said, only two of every 10 embryos implanted result in pregnancies.

Because of these low success rates, clinicians implant the majority of women with multiple embryos, Seli said. As a result, he added, one-third of IVF-assisted pregnancies in the United States result in multiple births.

Multiple birth pregnancies pose significant health consequences, including increased risk of pre-term labor, hypertension and birth defects.

The new testing method, Seli said, should decrease the need for multiple transfers of embryos, thereby reducing the risk of multiple pregnancies.

Tucker said ViaMetrics-E could be a “big game change” for IVF technology.

“What this technology have is an extra dimension or criterion to judge the embryo,” said Tucker, the laboratory director at the Shady Grove Fertility Clinic in Rockville, Md.

In the future, Tucker said, clinicians may only need to implant one embryo.

Robert B. Rochelle, the vice president of Molecular Biometrics — the company that trademarked the procedure — said the speed of the test will be a big selling point. A group of five embryos would take about 15 minutes to analyze using ViaMetrics-E, he said in an e-mail.

Rochelle said the procedure is not available yet in the United States. However, Molecular Biometrics has recently completed a successful testing program in Europe, Australia and Japan. The company has yet to set a price for the procedure, he added.

The Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the procedure either, Seli said.

Seli presented his findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Atlanta last week. He received the Ira and Ester Rosenwaks New Investigator Award for his research.

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