Non-invasive embryo screening to boost IVF success

Friday, 31 May, 2019

Non-invasive embryo screening to boost IVF success

A newly developed non-invasive embryo DNA screening test, created by Australia’s leading fertility scientists, is expected to reduce miscarriages and the time it takes to achieve a healthy live birth for Australian couples affected by infertility.

Embryos that do not contain the correct amount of chromosome pairs often result in miscarriage or a child born with a genetic abnormality. That risk increases rapidly when a woman gets older. Genetic testing allows these embryos to be identified before they are transferred back to the womb.

Unfortunately, the current worldwide genetic test biopsy process requires 5–10% of the embryo cell mass to be removed to perform the genetic DNA test, which means the test can only be performed on the strongest embryos. Many embryos are never DNA tested, and a small number do not survive the procedure.

“The current practice of pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos has seen improvements in pregnancy rates, but we felt there was a better way of screening that could be applied to more embryos,” said Professor Luk Rombauts, Medical Director of Monash IVF Group.

“Older patients who would benefit the most were missing out because most or all of their embryos were not suitable for the embryo biopsy.”

Monash IVF Group scientists found that as the embryo cells grow and divide, they secrete DNA into the culture medium in which they are growing. By extracting this DNA from the culture medium, scientists can test it for chromosomal abnormalities.

The non-invasive nature of the test allows clinicians to screen embryos that were previously assessed as not strong enough for biopsy, but may still result in a healthy baby. It can be performed on more embryos for those patients that really need it — particularly those at a higher risk of miscarriage or failed pregnancy — at a lower cost and without the need for an invasive surgical embryo biopsy.

“This is a fantastic outcome for reproductive research in Australia, which is set to help more people in Australia become parents for the first time,” Professor Michelle Lane, who led the development of the test.

“Monash IVF Group created Australia’s first IVF pregnancy and will now make genetic testing more accessible to many Australians with a test that will help IVF patients achieve the birth of a healthy baby more quickly.”

The $495 test has been validated over two years via two clinical trials. It is available now from Monash IVF’s fertility clinics in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

Image caption: Under the new test method, DNA is extracted from the culture medium the embryo is growing in.

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