Eight-cell stage embryos

Scientists Improve Ability to Predict Embryo Quality

May 15, 2008 06:00 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Better knowledge of which test-tube embryos are more likely to develop into healthy babies could lead to fewer multiple births, and safer fertility treatments.

30-Second Summary

In fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF), doctors have no way to tell if a “test tube” embryo will implant into a woman’s uterus and become a baby.

To increase chances of pregnancy, some couples allow the transfer of more than one embryo into a woman’s uterus. The result is often a “multiple pregnancy,” from which more than one baby is born.

Assisted reproduction pushed the incidence of twins up 70 percent from 1980 to 2005. The rate of triplet births jumped more than 400 percent in the 1980s and 1990s.

These rates have begun to level off, however, because medical officials are encouraging steps to reduce these numbers. Multiples pregnancies can be very dangerous to both the mother and the babies, and the chance of premature births is high.

Australian researchers recently studied 48 women in Greece who were undergoing IVF, taking between 8 and 20 cells from their embryos a few days after fertilization.

There were 37 babies born from the IVF treatments. The scientists matched “DNA fingerprints” from the embryos to the babies born, and noticed genes that may help predict the chances of an embryo developing into a baby.

“The real measure of the success of an IVF program is the singleton delivery rate, not just the delivery rate,” concludes Dr. Robert Sillman, a medical director at a fertility clinic.

Headline Link: Identifying embryos

Background: Sextuplets in Arizona and Minnesota

Related Topics: Multiple births, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis

Multiples birth rates
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis

Reference: Fertility issues


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