IVF Innovations – The EmbryoScope™ at Cape Fertility

At Cape Fertility, we are always striving for higher success rates for our fertility patients and finding ways of making quality fertility treatment affordable. As a result, we continuously invest in new high-quality technology. An example of this is our state-of-the-art EmbryoScope™ systems that allow us to offer our IVF patients excellent service and superior results.

In this article, we take a look at what the EmbryoScope™ is, how it improves IVF success rates and therefore also IVF affordability, and where you can access this technology to improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

What Is EmbryoScope™?

The EmbryoScope™ is an IVF incubator system that is equipped with a microscope that also has an integrated camera, operated using advanced software.

The built-in camera enables automated imaging of the eggs (oocytes) in a closed incubation environment – from fertilisation until the time of the embryo transfer. Because the EmbryoScope™ is a time-lapse system that provides superior image quality, embryologists can visually follow the development of the embryos.

The technology behind EmbryoScope™ was developed in the 1990s by a team of university scientists from the Department of Biology at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, who had more than 20 years of experience in developing, constructing, and applying microsensors. With funding primarily from the 4th European Frame Program of the European Commission, the scientists created a series of innovative sensors and measuring principles were developed, three of which were subsequently patented internationally. This included EmbryoScope®, brought to the medical market by a company called Unisense FertiliTech, which was sold to Vitrolife in 2014.

EmbryoScope™ is the most widely adopted time-lapse incubator worldwide today, and more than 275 EmbryoScope™ instruments are installed at IVF clinics around the globe.

According to Vitrolife, EmbryoScope™ has been used in more than a million patient treatments worldwide since 2009 and has been validated for safety to both embryo and for the health of babies born from use of the technology. The system has been reported to improve pregnancy rates and reduce the rate of miscarriage.

How do IVF patients benefit from EmbryoScope™?

During in vitro fertilization (IVF), the female partner’s eggs are collected and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory and placed in an incubator for several days, before the resulting embryo is implanted into the uterus. While the process sounds relatively simple, it is important to understand that IVF is not a single medical procedure or event, but a series of detailed and delicate procedures that are completed over a number of weeks. From the first day of the cycle to the pregnancy test completed 14 days after the egg retrieval, the entire IVF process spans around 28 days. You can read more about the steps and procedures involved in a typical 28-day IVF plan at Cape Fertility by clicking here…

Among the most crucial steps in the IVF process is growing the embryos in a safe, undisturbed environment, while also ensuring only the best quality embryos are chosen for implantation. And this is where the many benefits of EmbryoScope™ come into play, as detailed below.

* Embryos are safe and undisturbed

Following the retrieval of eggs and the successful fertilisation of the eggs, the embryos (eggs that have been successfully fertilised) are grown in the laboratory incubator for two to five days. Remember that not all embryos will lead to a pregnancy. Embryos vary in quality and the better the quality, the more likely an embryo is to implant in the womb and lead to a pregnancy.

At Cape Fertility, our specialist team of embryologists will monitor the development of the embryos to eventually choose the best embryo for transfer into the uterus.

In traditional standard IVF, the embryos are removed from the incubator every second day so the embryologists can ensure they are growing as they should be. This means the embryos are removed from the incubator three to five times to perform evaluations. The result is very limited evaluation time, as the time embryos spend outside of the safe environment of the incubator needs to minimised to avoid embryo stress, which can reduce the quality of the embryo and therefore the chances of pregnancy.

Now, with the specially designed EmbryoScope™ incubator with time-lapse technology, embryologists can monitor the embryos through the full course of their development without removing them from the safe environment of the incubator. Instead, the embryos remain protected in the EmbryoScope™ incubator and stay undisturbed in their stable and warm environment for the entire culture duration. The built-in camera and microscope takes an image of your embryos every 10 minutes and time-lapse videos of individual embryos are generated over the two to five days they remain in the incubator.

By improving embryo culture conditions and reducing handling of the embryo, the stress experienced by the embryo is reduced, which can result in better embryos and higher pregnancy rates.

Informed decisions

Observing features of early embryo development is important for embryologists evaluate the embryo’s potential to implant and become a successful pregnancy. Critical embryo development patterns such as abnormal cleavage patterns or an abnormal number of nuclei could be missed by traditional evaluations, but with EmbryoScope™ embryologist don’t miss a thing.

It also gives the parents-to-be more information about the embryo and provides a film record of the medical beginning of their future baby’s life.

Improved embryo selection

By allowing the embryologist to see exactly when cell divisions occur, EmbryoScope™ also improves embryo selection. Embryologists can distinguish and choose between normal developing embryos with good implantation potential and development patterns with a risk of implantation failure to select the embryo most likely to result in the birth of a healthy baby.

Better success rates

The EmbryoScope™ can be used for all patients undergoing assisted reproduction treatment, although the chances of an improvement in the results are better for patients who generate more embryos because there is a better possibility for selection.

According to the EmbryoScope™ manufacturers, Vitrolife, use of time-lapse for embryo selection increases the chances of achieving a live birth. It says that the use of time-lapse has been associated with significantly higher ongoing clinical pregnancy rate, significantly lower early pregnancy loss and a significantly increased live birth rate compared to traditional culture. Their website also features a report, summarising the combined results of five clinical studies: in 1637 patient treatments, there was a statistically significant improvement in ongoing pregnancy rate as well as live birth rate and a significantly lower early pregnancy loss in the treatments where EmbryoScope™ was used, compared to traditional culture and evaluation.

This has also been evident in statistics from our Cape Fertility Egg Donation Program, which shows that the EmbryoScope™ gave a 10% higher clinical pregnancy rate and 10% higher blastocyst rate (good embryos) than a standard incubator.

Where to access EmbryoScope technology

At Cape Fertility, we achieve some of the best IVF success rates in the world. Yet, we are always striving for higher success rates. We have access to many technologies that are not available in standard IVF clinics and therefore we can offer superior service.

We offer IVF treatment at our purpose-built premises in the beautiful city of Cape Town, with an IVF Procedure Room, a modern sophisticated Laboratory and an Embryo Transfer room – which is equipped with two advanced EmbryoScope™ systems, so up to 12 patients can be accommodated at the same time.

You can access the EmbryoScope™ technology that has proven to improve IVF success rates at Cape Fertility an additional fee. Simply contact us here  to find out more.

We value each individual patient, and we look forward to providing you with our signature individualised and personalised care, affordable quality fertility treatment, and higher success rates at our purpose-built premises in the beautiful city of Cape Town.