With the launch of a new technique, scientists are set to revolutionise IVF treatment in Australia and offer fresh hope to childless couples.
In a month`s time, patients will be able to access technology that screens every chromosome in their embryos for defects that could prevent pregnancy or result in miscarriage.
Only eight to 10 chromosomes can currently be screened for genetic errors, which sees a high number of healthy-looking embryos turn out to be defective, wasting patients` time and causing significant distress.
But the new treatment will boost the likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy by at least a third while significantly speeding up the process, said Leeanda Wilton of IVF Australia.
"It will significantly increase the chances of having a healthy baby because we are able to identify the embryos that are most likely to result in pregnancy. This is what we have been searching for, for a long time," News quoted her as telling the Sunday Telegraph .
"One of the key benefits of the technique is that it significantly shortens the time it takes for patients to become pregnant because, rather than transferring embryos that have a chromosome error that we cannot detect we choose the ones that we know will have a good chance," she said.
The new treatment is expected to cost about 3700 dollars per cycle, the same as the basic genetic testing now available.
The patients most likely to benefit are women aged over 38, those with hereditary chromosomal conditions, those who have a record of unsuccessful IVF cycles and women who are prone to miscarriage.
The new technique, known as microarray comparative genomic hybridisation, compares DNA from the embryo with normal DNA to show up errors and turns around results in just 36 hours.
The European Society of Human Reproduction announced last week that four women had given birth to healthy babies after having their eggs genetically screened using the same technology.
But Wilton said it was far more comprehensive to test embryos.
"We firmly believe that it is much more valuable to screen the embryo because, although there are chromosome errors in eggs, there are many more chromosome errors that occur in the first few days of the embryo`s development," added Wilton.