4 July 2013

What you need to know about: Time-lapse technology in IVF

Sims IVF logo

Written by

Sims IVF

Sims IVF installed the Eeva™ (Early embryo viability assessment) test which involves time lapse technology in January 2013. 

Sims IVF now has a number of IVF patients using Eeva and here are the key questions that they ask about the technology and how it will improve their chances of having a baby.

Frequently asked questions

What is time-lapse technology?

Time lapse is the ability to observe the embryo after fertilisation and define its functional steps in terms of cell division.  The timings and nature of these cell divisions. in advance of its development into a uterus. The information gleaned from these sequential images helps us to define its behaviour and function and thereby characterise its relative genetic potential and desire to become a child.

How does it work?

A small camera above each embryo takes several images per hour and so creates sequential images of timing and nature of when and how the embryos divide and develop.  This then provides additional information previously unavailable over and above the standard shape of the embryo at fixed days after fertilisation. This adds greatly to our predictive ability to identify those embryos that most wish to implant and create a pregnancy.

What criteria are used for embryo selection?

No company, technology or human owns the human embryo and/or its development. It, like us all, has been around since the beginning of human history. There are however many different systems for analysing this behaviour and activity. Most, such as Eeva and Embryoscope, focus on the timings of the cell divisions and/or embryo/blastocyst development but these current criteria will improve with time as other important characteristics such as fragmentation are incorporated into different mathematical prognostic models in future.

Further, these “upgrades” create the exciting probability of technologies which progressively improve over time as more embryo and outcome information is entered.  Eeva is uniquely positioned to avail of these ‘upgrades’ in real time due to its web connectivity to Auxogyn.

In truth, this is a new sub-science of embryology to which clinicians and embryologists can all contribute and develop together both now and in the years to come.

So although different clinics/companies with different technologies will therefore view initially different aspects of the embryo at different times, the net intent is exactly the same insofar as the embryos are simply expressing their genetic desire in different ways.  Differing technologies are essentially looking at the same thing just from slightly different angles.

In this regard Professor Fishel’s research is a very useful contribution focusing as it does on the timing of later embryo development. It is therefore also reassuring that our audit of time lapse at Sims IVF, based on earlier embryo timing intervals after fertilization, confirms the broad thrust of this recent British study. It must however be acknowleged that time lapse technologies require prospective randomised controlled clinical trials to confirm their effectiveness (one of which is currently being carried out in the US).

How does the service improve pregnancy rates?

All we as doctors really want to know is which patients are likely to succeed, and which patients are not, and if they have not succeeded why not? Time lapse is a new selection tool which allows us to better identify embryos with a higher chance of implantation so we can maximise an individual couple’s chance of becoming pregnant and having a baby.

In addition if patients produce embryos which did not fulfill these criteria then clearly there are embryo quality issues at play and we need to focus our attention on how we can try to improve egg, sperm and embryo quality – or indeed if not what alternative treatments should be considered for that patient.

Who should avail of this?

Patients who wish to maximise the chance of having a child should utilise the service to help them and us select the most successful embryo for transfer. Equally those who are failing to achieve a pregnancy should use this technology to confirm whether theirs is an embryo problem - or something other than the embryo (for example the implantation potential of the wall of the womb etc). On this basis any selection tools such as in Time lapse technology will help to maximise the chance of succeeding for those who will succeed and maximise the chance of identifying why the treatment is not succeeding for those who fail.

If you would like more information on this or any other aspect of Sims IVF fertility testing and treatment, please contact us confidentially on 01 208 0710.