Embryo selfies could shorten time in IVF

Marnie Banger

Women undergoing IVF could become pregnant more easily because of a new technique that analyses embryo "selfies", a South Australian university says.

University of Adelaide researchers have successfully trialled a technique for mapping the inside of an embryo using only a simple photo of it.

The researchers have also determined several factors inside embryo cells that influence how likely it is they would lead to a pregnancy.

Lead researcher Hannah Brown says they've worked with mice but she is confident the technique can help fertility clinics pick the best embryos to implant in women.

She says embryologists already do great work picking embryos using microscopes but this new depth of information gives them more to work with.

"Now we can see what lies beneath and look in more detail at the structure of an embryo's cells without causing any potential damage to the embryo or its environment," Dr Brown told AAP.

"Traditionally, embryologists who wanted to check for DNA damage in an embryo's cells would need to remove a small piece of it to analyse. Using this technology, we can make the same checks using embryo 'selfies' from cameras similar to those on an iPhone."

The digital imaging technique is currently used to diagnose cancer cells and works by analysing, scoring and then modelling every pixel in a picture.

The process takes just a few minutes and is practically free, Dr Brown said, as fertility clinics already regularly take pictures of embryos to track their growth and offer them to couples doing IVF as keepsakes.

Adelaide IVF clinic Fertility SA has agreed to trial the technology within the next couple of years to see if it's as effective for women as it is for mice.

"We're very much hoping this could reduce people's time spent undergoing IVF and the number of cycles they need to do to become pregnant, as the process can get very wearying," Dr Hull said

"The technique is exciting because it doesn't damage the embryo, is relatively easy to do, and wouldn't add time or cost for patients."