EmbryoScope at a glance
- EmbryoScope is a specialized incubator for embryos in an IVF laboratory that is equipped with a camera and microscope to take photos of each embryo every 10 minutes.
- The photos are combined to form a time-lapse video of the embryo’s development that can be viewed on a monitor in the laboratory.
- Embryologists use the time-lapse videos to determine the highest quality embryos for transfer to the woman’s womb.
- The EmbryoScope improves in vitro fertilization (IVF) success rates by eliminating embryos’ exposure to impurities in the air and by providing continuous, real-time knowledge of embryo cell division patterns that can increase implantation success.
What is an EmbryoScope?
The EmbryoScope is a specialized incubator for embryos in an IVF laboratory designed to reduce risks from exposure to impurities in the air and to identify the best embryos for transfer by their cell-division patterns. One of the biggest challenges in fertility medicine and in vitro fertilization is choosing which embryo or embryos to transfer to the female patient based on which embryos have the best probability of implanting and creating a viable pregnancy.
Traditionally, embryologists must remove the embryos from their warm, dark incubators about once a day during the first three to five days after fertilization to assess and grade the quality of the embryo’s development. By viewing the embryo at these static time intervals, key time-points of cell division may be missed.
The EmbryoScope effectively eliminates the need for embryologists to disturb the embryos in order to assess the cell division process.
Fertility scientists are always trying to improve IVF success rates, and the EmbryoScope is one of the latest advances in that area. Developed by Unisense Fertilitech, the EmbryoScope was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011.
Physicians conducting IVF attempt to reduce the incidence of multiple pregnancy (twins or more) because of the health risks to mother and child. One of the best ways to do that is by transferring only one embryo for a pregnancy.
This is called elective single-embryo transfer (eSET), and its practice by fertility clinics is a stated goal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The EmbryoScope is a new screening tool designed to increase the transfer of a single embryo whenever possible.
How does the EmbryoScope improve embryo implantation rates?
Recent studies have shown that the cell division pattern of the embryo can be an indicator as to which embryos have the best chances for IVF success. The cell division pattern may also indicate which embryos could have chromosomal abnormalities, although more data are needed to verify this than is supplied by the EmbryoScope evaluation.
There are specific events, or cell divisions, that should happen by certain points in the embryo’s development. For example, an embryo with a high probability for success should be two to four cells at 48 hours after fertilization and about seven to 10 cells by 72 hours after fertilization.
The time-points of cell division allow the embryologists to choose the embryos that have the best chance for implantation, which equates to a greater chance of the parents delivering a healthy baby. This can be extremely helpful for patients who have many embryos to choose from after IVF.
The EmbryoScope at FIRM
How the EmbryoScope works
The EmbryoScope has a time-lapse camera system attached to a microscope that monitors the cell division of each embryo while the embryos are still in the incubator, taking enlarged photos of each embryo every 10 minutes. The EmbryoScope’s EmbryoViewer software then uses the images to create a time-lapse video of the embryo’s development.
The time-lapse cameras’ feed is displayed on a monitor so that the embryologist can record the cell division of each embryo. This video allows embryologists to determine certain time-points in the embryo’s development within three minutes of accuracy. The IVF lab can use that information to determine which embryos have the best chance for implantation and pregnancy.