Melbourne: Scientists claim to have achieved a breakthrough in infertility treatment by developing a new IVF technique which helps select the healthiest embryos
by determining the amount of their glucose intake.
Prof David Gardner, who led a team at the University of Melbourne, said that the study related specifically to the glucose intake of embryos from the solution in which they grow
in the laboratory.
In Vitro Fertilisation or IVF units use this solution to provide a bed of nutrients for embryos fertilised in the laboratory from eggs and sperm of couples who cannot naturally
conceive. The glucose in embryo solution closely matches that which occurs naturally in the uterus.
Gardner said fertility specialists knew the precise amount of glucose in the solution before inserting an embryo.
"By measuring the level of glucose on day four or five after fertilisation, we can determine how much has been consumed by a growing embryo. There is clear cut evidence that the greater the glucose intake the healthier the embryo.
"On average, IVF units generate between eight and ten embryos per cycle, of which about half will progress through cell division to what is known as the blastocyst stage after four to five days.
"By measuring the glucose consumption of an embryo, we can better determine which is the healthiest embryo for transfer back to the patient," he said.
The research involved 50 patients undergoing IVF. Thirtytwo of the women had a positive pregnancy test after embryo transfer and 28 babies were born. "The 28 babies resulted from the embryos which had the highest glucose uptake. Previous studies with animals have shown that the healthiest blastocysts are those with the greatest glucose consumption indicating the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.
"It is exciting to find that this process appears to be the same in people knowing that the glucose in embryo culture media is a major energy source for cell division and
is required for biosynthesis to enable cell replication," Prof Gardner said.
According to the scientists, another potentially exciting aspect of the research was that female embryos appeared to take up more glucose than male embryos. "This is a
very early observation, but it may have the potential to help identify gender at early embryo stage," Prof Gardner said. The findings have been presented at the Fertility Society of Australia annual meeting.