5 Technologies Transforming Embryology
As an embryologist, these are the top five technologies that have transformed my professional experience in fertility clinics over the last several years.
One of the most significant advancements in recent years in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) lab has been in the field of cryopreservation. The first pregnancy from a cryopreserved embryo was reported in 1983 and today freezing eggs or embryos is now routine practice in fertility clinics. The technique, called vitrification, uses ultra-rapid freezing instead of the traditional slow freezing process.
Advances in microscopic equipment helped bring about another key advancement, micromanipulation. Micromanipulation refers to the microscopic treatment of individual eggs, sperm, or embryos in an effort to improve fertilization and pregnancy rates. The most common micromanipulation techniques used today in IVF procedures are intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and assisted hatching.
During the IVF process, it is possible to check an embryo for genetic abnormalities before transfer usually by biopsy, although there is research being performed to advance noninvasive techniques.
Preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) is used to identify embryos with normal chromosomes before implantation and has become a routine add-on for IVF. Preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic (single-gene) disorders (PGT-M) is a technique used to test embryos for a specific genetic disorder prior to transfer. This enables individuals with serious inherited disorders to reduce the risk of having a child with the same condition.
Incubators provide a highly controlled environment for embryo development. A significant breakthrough was achieved with the advent of the time-lapse incubator, which have a built-in microscope and camera. The camera photographs each embryo every 10-12 minutes which allows for assessment without disturbing the embryo.
The implementation of deep learning and artificial intelligence in healthcare is on the rise. There are now many opportunities to leverage intelligent systems in the clinical practice of reproductive medicine. The possibilities range from stimulation protocols to assisting embryologists with morphological assessments and live birth predictions to quality control and patient counseling. While many articles have been published on AI for embryo assessment, it will be exciting to see where else this technology will take us in the future.
If you are interested in learning more what AI can bring to your clinic, please contact us for a demo.