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Resolve to Know More About New Technology to Increase IVF Success
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week’s theme of “Resolve to Know More …,” I think it is important for individuals and couples who are exploring fertility treatment to learn all they can about new technologies that have the potential to improve their chances of success. The “EmbryoScope” and the “Eeva” are two revolutionary technologies that my practice is currently using. The technology may be especially helpful for those couples who have previously failed IVF or suffered from recurrent miscarriages.
After reading about these technologies for the first time in my newsletter, one of my patients wrote to me:
“After 3 failed IUIs and finding out yesterday the only way is doing IVF had me very sad and thinking, what if the IVF fails as the IUIs? But after reading this article I had a feeling of hope in my heart.”
What Are the EmbryoScope and the Eeva?
The EmbryoScope by Unisense FertiliTech and Eeva by Auxogyn are technologies used to monitor embryo development after egg retrieval and fertilization and before transfer during the process of IVF. After the egg retrieval, the eggs are collected and placed in our embryology lab where they are examined and prepared for fertilization either in a Petri dish or with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). They are then allowed to grow and develop for three to five days in an incubator.
With the traditional method of monitoring, our embryologists had to remove the embryos from the incubator once a day, every 24 hours, and examine them through a microscope for a few minutes each day. They did this in order to evaluate their appearance (morphology) to see if they are developing properly. Based on the standard assessments, the healthiest embryo or embryos were returned to the uterus during a procedure called the embryo transfer.
The EmbryoScope and the Eeva use time-lapse photography and software to provide quantitative and objective information on the development of an embryo from the time of fertilization until it is transferred. For example, Eeva's (Early Embryo Viability Assessment) proprietary software automatically analyzes embryo development against scientifically and clinically validated cell-division time periods. With this software, we have found that the length of time for an embryo to cleave from two cells to three cells seems to be very important.
We also have learned from these time-lapse high-resolution videos that embryos are extremely dynamic in their development, changing constantly, so that the traditional methods of embryo monitoring — just a single static observation for a few minutes per day — may miss some of these important changes. The embryologist can now evaluate irregularities that were not always identifiable during the standard, once-daily morphology evaluation.
What Are the Benefits of the EmbryoScope and the Eeva?
The EmbryoScope and Eeva differ in their imaging and software, but both can monitor up to 12 embryos per patient and take photos of each embryo every 10 to 20 minutes during the incubation period, thus creating a video of the first three to five days of development. Removing the embryos from the incubator for examination is no longer necessary, so these delicate embryos are provided with a more stable environment in which to grow and thrive.
This new technology offers more embryo data for our embryologists to consider and may help determine which embryo(s) will be best for successful implantation. This new era of morphokinetics — the selection of high potential embryos using time-lapse imaging — is very exciting, and many believe this new technology will contribute to higher IVF treatment success rates.
The benefits include:
- The embryos are in a much more controlled, undisturbed, stable environment.
- We can detect any abnormal development of the embryo very quickly.
- There is less risk of harming the embryo by removing it from the incubator.
- The device better assists us in more precisely selecting the most viable embryos for transfer.
According to several clinical trials in Europe, utilizing the EmbryoScope during IVF clearly increased clinical pregnancy rates. Auxogyn (Eeva) completed a multicenter clinical study that evaluated embryos from five IVF Clinics in California, showing improved embryo selection. (Fertility and Sterility; Volume 100, Issue Two, Pages 412-419; August 2013.) At Fertility Centers of Illinois, we are currently undergoing our own in-house clinical trial. It is too early to know for sure, but preliminary results look promising.