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The Embryoscope - High Tech Help For IVF

Are your embryos ready for their close-ups?

a blog by Suzanne Rico, November 13, 2012

The idea of spying on your kids has moved to a whole new level. The Embryoscope, approved by the FDA just last year, is a fertility device used to continuously monitor embryo development from conception to the time of transfer. This incubator/camera combo is the equivalent of an in-vitro nanny-cam, designed to capture odd behavior that might otherwise be overlooked. And as we infertility patients well know, there is lots our sweet little embryos could be getting away with when our backs are turned--naughty things like multinucelation or odd cleavages—or simply refusing to divide quickly (and perfectly) enough for their anxious intended parents.

The Embryoscope is currently being used at only ten labs in the United States, including the Cleveland Clnic in Ohio. Dr. Nina Desai, director of the clinic's IVF lab, says this high technology has opened up a new understanding of embryo development, allowing her staff to identify embryos with the best implantation potential.

“We will no longer be selecting embryos based on a single observation made each day of culture,” says Desai. “Instead we will be constantly monitoring the embryo's growth using time lapse imaging, an amazing peek at human embryos as they grow. We are seeing things that were previously hidden to us simply because no one would be checking an embryo at midnight to see what it was up to.”

The Embryoscope can keep its electronic eye on up to seventy-two embryos at one time, providing a high-resolution snapshot every twenty minutes. And, since the camera is built in, the embryos, like babies sleeping in their bassinets, are never disturbed.

“This can help us determine which embryos may be best to transfer,” says Desai. “By ‘peeking’ at the embryos at these non-conventional time intervals, we can catch a glimpse of a morphology that is maybe less likely to be associated with a good outcome.”

Patients who have used the Embryoscope say it all seems a little like science fiction, but really, what doesn’t in this rapidly developing area of medicine? As a former patient with recurring miscarriage, I wish this technology had been around years ago. I would have gladly pasted the Embryoscope’s photos into my son’s baby album, a high resolution record of his first precarious hours of life.

See video of The Embryoscope in action here

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