High-Tech Incubator May Help Fertility Outcomes

8:13 AM, Nov 2, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND (WKYC) -- Ed and Caroline Marks fell in love in college and eventually married. Like so many couples, they hoped for children.

But after a year of trying without success, they did some investigating.

A genetic test showed Ed had a chromosomal defect that makes conception difficult.

They went through two rounds of Invitro Fertilization without success. That's when they became candidates for something new in the world of reproductive science at Cleveland Clinic.

It's called an Embryoscope. It's not a magic bullet, but it is a high-tech incubator and time-lapse camera that captures the beginning of life.

"Imagine you're able to see every minute of the embryo's development, even before it's transferred to the uterus, before it implants on the uterine wall you're able to see this embryo. It's never been possible before," says Dr. Nina Desai.

Traditionally, Dr. Desai takes an embryo out of the standard incubator once a day to look at it under a microscope. But a lot can happen, when she's not looking, that she'd miss.

The Embryoscope keeps the embryos in a safe and stable environment and tracks every second of their development. That gives doctors an even better chance to catch subtle changes.

"We're learning so much that we hadn't realized happens to an embryo as it grows so we are just blown away by this. It's an amazing, amazing technology." says Dr. Desai.

"She pointed out ones that were growing well and you could really tell a difference between ones that were sort of stuck," Caroline says.

The embryoscope helped Dr. Desai determine which of Caroline's 12 embryos were the best to choose. Five were deemed unsuitable. Another five were frozen, but two were near perfect. Those were implanted and one of them took, and then split into twin girls.

"I think it will revolutionize the way we practice embryology," says Dr. Desai.

"We were pretty overwhelmed. It was like science fiction-type stuff," Ed says.
Ed and Caroline and now spending their days getting ready for life as parents. Their twin girls are due this winter and they'll have a very special video to show them of their first six days of life.

There's still not enough data to say if this device is going to completely change pregnancy rates, but Dr. Desai says they are having better success with patients who have a high risk of miscarriage.

She was so impressed with this device that, two months after she got the first, she got another one so there's enough room to track twelve patients and 144 embryos.

The main drawback to this technology is cost. It's expensive so the Clinic is currently only using it on high-risk patients as part of a research study.

Only women 38 and under with at least eight fertilized eggs are candidates.

The ultimate goal of any IVF program is to transfer just one embryo and have success. Dr. Desai believes the Embryoscope will give them the information needed to do that and cut down on multiple births.

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