Oxford researchers in baby making success

News

Research by an Oxford University-led team promises to improve the success rates of IVF treatment.

Dr Dagan Wells of the University has developed a technique that should provide a better quality check for embryos than is currently available, enabling doctors to implant those with the best chance of developing into healthy babies. The test could be offered to British patients by the end of next year.

Currently, success rates for IVF cycles leading to a live birth are only 24 percent in Britain, a figure that rises to 33 percent for women under 35. A key reason for this is that more than half of IVF embryos have genetic abnormalities called aneuploidies, which either have too many or too few chromosomes. These prevent the embryos from developing normally.

Wells’ technique aims to improve aneuploidy screening through testing embryos for two genetic abnormalities that may impede development. In tests on over 200 eggs and embryos, Dr Wells has shown it is possible to measure two genetic abnormalities – the number of mitochondria and the length of telomeres – with considerable accuracy. Details of his research were presented this week at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine conference in Florida.

Dr Wells told The Times: “We’ll be asking what happens when we transfer a chromosomally normal embryo. Do we get a pregnancy or not, and what do the telomeres look like?”

Wells said: “We’ll be ready to start doing this by the end of the year.”

It has been possible for several years to test either eggs or embryos for aneuploidy, and some clinics claim the success rates for doing this for a normal embryo can be as high as 70 or 80 percent. Wells’s work could mark another significant step in improving the success of IVF treatments.