Scientists discover method to double IVF success rate

Scientists believe they have found a way of doubling the IVF success rate by using a new method of embryo selection.

The chance of success is highly dependent on the women’s age, with the latest NHS figures showing that 32.3% of IVF treatments led to a live birth in women under 35. The rate went down to 27.7% for women aged 35 to 37 and was just 1.9% for women over 44.

British company MAP Diagnostics said its non-invasive screening technique involves scanning a tiny drop of the culture medium in which the embryo is incubated prior to being transferred to the mother’s womb.

This identifies signals secreted by the early stage embryo, known as a blastocyst, which predicts the likelihood of a successful pregnancy meaning that the embryo with the best odds can then be selected for implantation. Their research has found that its identification of a viable embryo correlated with a 57% chance of IVF resulting in a live birth.

British scientists have developed the technique in collaboration with Dr Fady Sharara, a leading fertility specialist in the United States, and their work is being presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction’s annual conference in Lisbon, Portugal, this week.

Their first study saw 115 samples of blastocyst culture analysed by testing a barcode pattern of proteins present. They found successful pregnancies correlated with a specific mass spectral profile while the less viable embryos showed a distinctly different pattern.
The company said the reader used to test the proteins, known as a MALDI ToF mass spectrometer, could become a standard piece of kit in every IVF clinic.

In addition to screening for viability, the MAP Diagnostics technique could also have other implications for how IVF is carried out as it could be used in place of genetic screening, which involves removing cells from an embryo and analysing them for chromosomal abnormalities.

Professor Ray Iles, the co-author of the study and chief operating officer of MAP Diagnostics, said: “The potential to increase IVF success and reduce the anguish and expense of repeated cycles is tremendous. “There has been little improvement in IVF success rates for decades because fertility doctors are relying on basic visual screening tools to assess embryo viability. We have discovered clear and objective differences in the signals secreted by embryos that are likely to result in a successful pregnancy and those that miscarry.”