AN IVF technique that involves collecting thousands of snapshots of a developing embryo can help avoid miscarriages and improve live birth success, it is claimed.
Researchers used the technique to select “low risk” embryos unlikely to have chromosomal abnormalities.
Their chances of producing a successful live birth were increased by 56 per cent, compared with all embryos.
The time-lapse imaging method spots developmental delays in the embryo at crucial stages which may indicate aneuploidy, a condition in which cells have extra or missing chromosomes.
Aneuploidy is common in human embryos and a major cause of fertility treatment failure and miscarriage.
Most affected embryos will not implant in the womb. If they do, they can result in a miscarriage or the birth of a child with a chromosomal disorder such as Down’s syndrome.
Traditional techniques for spotting aneuploidy involve removing cells from embryos and genetic screening.
Time-lapse imaging offers a non-invasive and simpler alternative that can assist couples seeking in-vitro fertilisation treatment.
Alison Campbell, embryology director at IVF clinic operators Care Fertility, who led the research, said: “Our key finding was that embryos from the high-risk class [for aneuploidy] showed no implantation at all.
“The highest implantation, as well as live-birth potential, was found for embryos from our low-risk class.
“From this we conclude that our algorithms for risk classification of aneuploidy can be applied to all IVF patients in order to allow for selection of embryos with a higher potential to implant and produce a live birth.”
In most IVF labs, a developing embryo yet to be transferred to a womb will be checked up to six times over a five-day period.
Time-lapse imaging allows more than 5,000 snapshots to be taken over the same time period.
“As a result of continuous monitoring we have demonstrated that delays at defined time points indicate abnormal development,” said Ms Campbell.
Professor Simon Fishel, managing director of Care Fertility Group, said: “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.”
Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield and chair of the British Fertility Society, said: “We really do need to make advances in selecting the best embryos created during IVF.
“It is good to see the science involved submitted to peer review and publication.
“All too often developments in IVF are trumpeted as advances when they remain unproven.”