Development and observation of embryos at the IVF laboratory
As soon as the collected gametes, i.e. oocytes and sperm, are delivered to the laboratory, the developing embryo becomes the subject of continues care of an embryologist. The success of the entire IVF procedure is very much dependent on whether the embryos show the required growth potential, in other words whether they are capable of the correct divisions, implantation in the uterus, and starting a healthy pregnancy.
At the IVF laboratory we are able to monitor all of these development stages which would normally take place inside a mother’s womb. Only a properly dividing and growing embryo can start a pregnancy. Embryos which fail to grow will not yield a pregnancy, others will grow until a certain stage when they are recognised by the mother’s organism as abnormal and miscarried.
At the laboratory, oocytes directly following fertilisation are placed in incubators which offer optimal conditions for the development of embryos, such as the right temperature, humidity, air composition (which helps to ensure the right pH in the culture media), being the exact equivalents of the conditions found inside a woman’s body.
As a standard procedure, once a day embryos are removed from the incubators and viewed under the microscope. Such assessments are usually not performed more frequently as embryos should not to be exposed to changing conditions of the environment in which they develop.
The assessments of the embryos are intended to determine their growth potential. Embryologists will monitor the following aspects: speed and sequence of cells division, their size and appearance, as well as the degree of fragmentation. Embryo fragmentation is the proportional relation between the correctly shaped cells (which will continue to divide creating new blastomeres ) and the cells which split into smaller, nucleus-free parts. If the latter ones account for more than 20% of the embryo, the likelihood of obtaining a pregnancy grows smaller.
nOvum currently offers a new method which ensures the precise monitoring of developing embryos: the Embryoscope.