Sunday, 22 September 2013

Time-lapse imaging, the ground-breaking technique

Time-lapse imaging, the ground-breaking technique

The field of medical science is ever growing and there are multiple research and developments going on across the globe to expand the knowledge levels. The treatment of infertility is also not an exception to it.
Embryo analysis, the current method

Today, we use a different process to determine the growth of embryo. The technicians in my laboratory are very particular about it and never miss a single instance, irrespective the number of IVF simultaneously going on. They remove the embryo carefully from the incubator and observe the development under the microscope. I personally intervene in case of any abnormality. Although we also take some static images of the embryos, but one thing is sure, chromosomal abnormalities can't be identified precisely in this method. Moreover, there are chances of developing embryo getting disturbed, no matter how carefully we handle them. We use techniques like biopsy to distinguish the genetic disorders. The new method is non-invasive, but still more precise and that is the biggest distinguishing factor.

It has been observed that generally the embryos with chromosomal abnormality take six to eight hours more as compared to the healthy ones. This is alarming and there are very high chances of IVF failure in this case. The phenomenon is called Aneuploidy, i.e. extra chromosome. Statistically it is the biggest culprit behind the failure of IVF in couples.

What is time-lapse imaging?

Time-lapse imaging itself is not a new technique. In fact, it is one of the oldest techniques where a camera takes photographs of a particular event at regular intervals. These multiple photographs show the development or change in the object correctly and precisely. The number of images and the interval can be adjusted and more pictures we take, more detailed growth can be observed.

Time-lapse imaging can be used to determine the growth of the embryo before it is implanted in the uterus. In this method, thousands of pictures are taken at the regular intervals during the first few days of embryo development. Experts try to estimate the time between the first glance of the embryo when it looks like a cavity filled with some liquid to the full-grown blastocyst. This process takes around four to five days.

There was a research done to assess the effectiveness of time-lapse imaging method and the results are quite encouraging. The study was not done to determine the quality of embryos for implantation, but it just recorded the readings and determined the high risk, low risk and medium risk embryos. The results of implantation were compared post facto. Results confirmed that embryos identified as problematic on the basis of image analysis were failed to survive while the embryos identified as healthy ones were able to reach up to live birth.

Experts say that it indicates the effectiveness of the new method for selecting the best embryos with the lowest risk of chromosomal abnormality. That increases the likelihood of successful pregnancy automatically. Although it appears to be very promising prima-facie, but it needs to prove itself on the touchstone of statistical methods. Once the reliability is established, Time Lapse Imaging will open new horizons of success to the IVF. It is certainly a buoying up news for the childless couples.

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