Time-lapse incubation (Embryoscope)

Culturing human embryos in vitro requires specific culture conditions. In few words, embryologists have to mimic the natural environment. The conventional way of doing it is to use incubators with precise and controlled temperature and gas concentrations. After sperm injection, embryos are placed in culture dishes in these incubators and embryologists remove them for daily morphologic evaluation done under the microscope.

However, removing embryos from the incubator will immediately change the temperature of the dish and the atmosphere of the culture media in which embryos are cultured. In time-lapse incubators an undisturbed environment is offered for embryo culture as the development for each individual embryo can be assessed at the same time by taking pictures at defined time intervals. For each embryo, these pictures can be viewed in sequence as a video and allow to follow exactly how the embryos grow over time.

Since the use of time-lapse incubators in IVF laboratories in 2010, embryologists have increased their knowledge regarding many dynamic morphological features in the developing embryo. Multinucleation at the 2-cell stage, known to reduce implantation and pregnancy rates, has an incidence of up to 50% in all embryos. However, standard observation will overlook up to 70% of multinucleated 2-cell embryos (with more than one nuclei, carrying the DNA in form of chromosomes) (Ergin et al., 2014, Aguilar et al., 2014).

Also, direct cleavage, the division  of one cell into three instead of two) leading to reduced implantation, is reported to be in the range of 15-30% of all embryos. 60% of these direct cleavages will be overlooked by standard observation (Rubio et al., 2012, Liu et al., 2014). Benefits of time-lapse directly translates into clinical benefits by eliminating embryos that have a reduced pregnancy potential thereby resulting in increased implantation rates and reduced pregnancy loss.

Advantages of Embryoscope:

  • Transparency in the growth of embryos as the time-lapse picture might be seen. So, all cell division time points might be monitored, used in in-house algorithms to select and prioritize embryos. 
  • Help embryologists identify anomalies, such as unusual severe fragmentation or cleavage patterns or pronucleate abnormalities that might otherwise be missed.
  • Uninterrupted culture as embryos are not removed from the Embryoscope for daily quality checks since their development is constantly monitored by the incubator itself.

Disadvantages of Embryoscope:

  • Increases the cost of IVF in many clinics worldwide (but very affordable in Turkey

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