A team of fertility experts from Newcastle University and the NHS have developed a novel system for processing embryos during IVF treatment. The innovative design of interlinked incubators provides a totally enclosed and controlled environment which has been shown to significantly improve the chances of pregnancy in women undergoing treatment.
Traditionally, in IVF procedures embryos are cultured in incubators, which provide a controlled environment. However, it is necessary to check embryo development under the microscope. This generally involves removing them from the controlled environment of the incubators, which may be harmful. The system developed by the Newcastle team overcomes this problem by enabling all procedures to be conducted within an enclosed and controlled environment.
After extensive testing to make sure that the system maintained stable environmental conditions (for air quality and temperature), it was introduced into the laboratories at Newcastle’s Fertility Centre at Life. The team were then able to compare the treatment outcomes over a period of three years.
Research published recently in the journal PLoS ONE reveals that the introduction of the new system into the Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life, part of the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, resulted in a 27% increase in pregnancy rate compared with conventional equipment used in IVF treatment labs.
In response to the findings, Infertility Network UK’s Chief Executive, Clare Lewis-Jones said: “We welcome this initial study and we will be following its progress with interest. Women who have to undergo IVF naturally want the best possible chance of having a child and any new developments which improve IVF success rates are most definitely to be welcomed.”
This is the first and only system of its kind to be installed in the UK. However, based on the innovative design from the Newcastle team, similar systems have already been exported to IVF clinics in the Netherlands, Canada and Thailand.
Alison Murdoch, Professor of Reproductive Medicine who leads the clinical service at Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life said: “Growing good embryos is the key to IVF success and everyone, even those who have a very small prospect of success, deserve to have the best possible chance. Since installing this new technology over 850 babies have now been born.”
This positive benefit to IVF patients came from investment into cutting edge research in embryonic stem cell research and was funded by the Medical Research Council and One North East.
Reference: Hyslop L, Prathalingam N, Nowak L, Fenwick J, Harbottle S, et al. (2012) A Novel Isolator-Based System Promotes Viability of Human Embryos during Laboratory Processing. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31010. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031010
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