Australian scientists have discovered a new breakthrough in IVF treatment. The team from fertility specialist Genea has developed a new method that reduces how often an embryo is disturbed during its developing period—which in return results to a much higher number of healthy embryos per IVF attempt.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF), more commonly used amongst mature women trying to conceive, is known for having a significant rate of failure.

“Many couples think that IVF is more successful than it actually is, and it comes as a real shock when it doesn’t work,” remarks Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, an online support network for women without children.

Continuous culture fluid and time-lapse incubator makes it possible

However, with the new method, mature women embarking on an IVF procedure can see a 46.7% increase in the number of viable high-grade embryos per cycle during the treatment.

“It’s fair to say that if a patient has more viable embryos for transfer or freeze it’s likely we will make more babies per egg collection,” explains associate professor Mark Bowman, medical director at Genea.

The team of scientists have developed a new thread of continuous culture fluid, similar to the ones found in a human body. When the fluid is used in combination with a unique time-lapse incubator, it will have a dramatic impact on the number of high-grade embryos produced per cycle.

The new thread of fluid supports embryo development outside of the body, and is able to last the whole length of the vital early stages development in a petri-dish—imitating the journey in the mother’s fallopian tubes prior to implantation in the uterus.

“Genea is getting closer and closer to mimicking the undisturbed natural environment of a woman’s body—where a human embryo would normally be—and I believe our success rates reflect this,” asserts Bowman.

On the other hand, the time-lapse incubator called Geri (Genea Embryo Review Incubator) uses internal camera technology that allows scientists to monitor embryo’s development from the inside—rather than opening it each time to check and disturbing the process.

“Other time lapse incubators on the market, have multiple patients in the one space, meaning even if they had a single step media, embryos would still need to be disturbed when scientists check other patients’ embryos,” says Genea’s Scientific Director, Steve McArthur.

Steven McArthur in Genea’s Kent Street Fertility Laboratory. Photo credit: News Corp Australia
Steven McArthur in Genea’s Kent Street Fertility Laboratory. Photo credit: News Corp Australia

At the moment, the new technology will be made available to Australian at no cost. However, it will still be sold globally.

“To be able to recreate the process as close as possible to the human body is definitely the most exciting thing,” shares McArthur.

Monitoring embryo’s growth via mobile app

Genea has also created a new app that enable parents to control their ‘babies’ before they are developed.

The app called Grow allows parents undertaking IVF to watch multiple embryos minute-by-minute for the first crucial five days following fertilisation.

To do so, the special incubator captures a single image of a patient's growing embryos every five minutes, providing a mini time-lapse video for parents to watch at the end of the hour.

"There is so much unknown in those first five days and there is so much uncertainty for women around what is happening to their eggs," explains Genea fertility specialist, Dr Tween Low.

Dr Tween Low, Genea fertility specialist, with Genea’s time-lapse incubator ‘Geri’. Photo credit: The Canberra Times
Dr Tween Low, Genea fertility specialist, with Genea’s time-lapse incubator ‘Geri’. Photo credit: The Canberra Times

Dr Low admits that to some people it might be ‘too much information’, and they have the option to not know, however those who want answers can seek them through the app.

App that helps eases IVF treatment

Genea isn’t the only one with new technology to help improve IVF treatment. Ferring Australia developed the MiFertility Plan app that helps women track their appointments and injections. The app is made available for Australian market.

"Undergoing fertility treatment can be complicated as it may involve learning to inject or administer a number of medicines at specific times during and after a cycle," says Hardus van Vuuren, General Manager for Ferring Australia.

The app aims to help by allowing patients to enter their specific treatment information, often provided by their clinic, quickly and easily onto their devices. It also has a ‘reminder’ function to remind patients of crucial events, such as timely injections that cannot be missed.

"In addition, the app syncs with a smartphone or computer calendar and enables a woman's fertility cycle plan to be shared with her clinic to confirm accuracy before starting treatment," highlights van Vuuren. MIMS

Read more:
Quality vs. quantity: Does egg count determine a woman’s fertility
More than 96% of add-on treatments for IVF lack proper evidence of efficacy
A song to boost IVF success