Health Technology — 31 August 2012

The Mayo Clinic has announced its first births from in vitro fertilization using a new time-lapse incubator. The incubator minimizes disturbances from human handling and helps fertility specialists identify the healthiest embryos before they are implanted in a uterus.

Twins, a boy and a girl, were born this month at Mayo, marking the first reported births in the U.S. using the technology. The embryos were cultured in a time-lapse incubator at the Fertility Centers of New England. The babies, along with their mother, are all healthy.

A video of the twins’ embryo cells dividing can be seen below:

The time-lapse incubator uses a microscope, camera and computer that provide continuous images of embryo cells as they divide during in vitro culture. The new technology helps fertility specialists better monitor embryo development to select the healthiest-looking embryos for implantation. Embryos that are not transferred are frozen for later use.

Millions of women in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.  Many turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which mature eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. Embryos are then transferred into the uterus. IVF is often effective, but typically requires handling of embryos for observation outside of the incubator for as long as five minutes. That can cause stress and potentially damage to the embryo.

“With current technology, IVF is successful for many patients. However, we believe it can be improved even further,” said Dean Morbeck, PhD, an embryologist and director of Mayo Clinic’s In Vitro Fertilization Laboratory. “The time-lapse incubator allows us to culture embryos in a very controlled environment with minimal disturbance, bringing us one step closer to what occurs naturally. We anticipate that patients who have embryos that struggle to develop in traditional incubators will benefit the most from this technology.”

Besides providing a safe and closed system for embryos to develop, the technology allows parents to view a video of the embryo from shortly after conception through the first few days of embryo development.

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Pat Anson, Editor

Pat is Editor in Chief of American News Report. He is a veteran journalist and a former correspondent and producer for HealthWeek (PBS), Nightly Business Report (PBS) and other nationally syndicated shows. Pat has won numerous journalism awards, including a Golden Mike award for investigative reporting.

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