Five Star Hotel for Embryos

In the high-tech world within an embryology lab at a fertility clinic you might find the highest tech kit of all is the Embryoscope, an item featuring artificial intelligence that can help fertility experts create a life

“It’s like a five-star hotel for embryos,” says Jen Nisbett, a senior embryologist with Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM).

“We view it as the top-notch treatment, and all of us working in the lab are unanimous that we’d want it included in our own treatment plan if we were having IVF or ICSI.”

An Embryoscope is an incubator designed to recreate the conditions needed to provide the optimal environment for embryos in a laboratory setting, featuring a built-in microscope and camera that captures images of each embryo every 10-20 minutes.

The resultant time-lapse videos allow Jen Nisbett and her colleagues to monitor the progress of the embryos without disturbing them, allowing the team to assess them and select the strongest ones for implantation.

The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) – the regulator for the fertility sector – classifies the Embryoscope as an ‘add-on’ for patients undergoing fertility treatment

This is because there is insufficient evidence from randomised controlled trials as to whether it’s use is effective at improving the chances of having a baby for most fertility patients, pointing out that initial research has shown some promise, but it’s still very early days.

Jen Nisbett said: “We have been using state-of-the-art standard culture incubators for many years, and have achieved consistent, successful pregnancy rates across all patients we treat, so for those patients who choose not to use the Embryoscope it does not mean their cycle is more likely to fail.

“It’s just that the time-lapse photo-imaging takes incubation a step further, allowing less disturbance of the developing embryos in optimal conditions.

“What’s more we have found that using the Embryoscope has increased the proportion of patients with embryos left over to freeze, providing opportunities for further FET, that is frozen embryo transfer, cycles – either in case of an unsuccessful cycle, or for a sibling at some point in the future – and sparing the patient the need to go through further cycles of egg extraction.

“There are no known extra risks involved in using time-lapse imaging to monitor your embryos.

“The Embryoscope was launched in 2016. We’ve had ours since 2018 and now offer all patients undergoing IVF or ICSI treatment the opportunity to use it as part of their FET cycle.

“It will be mentioned to patients at their first appointment, although they don’t need to make a decision about whether they wish to use it until they are on medication preparing for their first cycle of egg extraction.”

The Embryoscope at BCRM is available both to private and NHS patients and is charged out to all as an ‘add-on’

Results accumulated from its use at BCRM indicates that it could be valuable for patients who have had previous failed cycles of IVF/ICSI because it permits the laboratory team to gain more information about their embryos and identify any anomalies that may not be visible with normal IVF or ICSI incubation.

Find out more here 

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