I would start off with a joke regarding how in-vitro fertilizations have become a new form of art, since they are now referred to as ART techniques, or assisted reproductive technologies, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry in this article. A team of researchers from Stanford have just come up with the most effective way to assess the viability of a fertilized egg – Embryos can be squeezed like grapes to assess IVF viability.
Yes, you read that right. Embryos can be squeezed like grapes to assess their IVF viability – and it’s the most effective way to do that so far. So, after decades of experimentation and scientific progress, in-vitro fertilization experts realized that the best way to assess the viability of the embryo is the same way you test fruit for ripeness.
Up until this new, revolutionary technique, all in-vitro fertilizations had a 70% chance to fail. There was no way to determine whether or not the procedure would fail, so doctors would rather implant multiple fertilized eggs, which could lead to multiple complications.
First and most obvious, the chances of having twins, triplets, and so forth are much higher when going for this procedure. Sometimes doctors assume the patients know this, so the couple finds out that multiple eggs were successfully fertilized after the fact.
A second, much more unpleasant outcome is that complications arise at the level of the fertilized embryo, leading to either neonatal death, or even the death of the mother (which happens much less often than that of the unborn infant).
Squeeze those eggs
Observing that some embryos are squishier than others, Dr. Barry Behr, a gynecologist with Stanford University decided to find out why that was, and whether it can have any relevance in assessing an embryo’s potential to develop. The results were surprising even to the scientists involved.
First, the team collected a bunch of mouse eggs and applied pressure to them, noting how squishy they were and how much they deformed. Next, the eggs were placed in a vat of nurturing liquid, only to be re-examined at their blastocyst stage.
Next, using the data they collected from squeezing the embryos, the scientists created a computer model which can predict with a whopping 90% accuracy whether the embryo will be successfully fertilized or not. This made the embryos selected via this method be 50% more likely to result in a live birth.
Despite the fact that there are factors which can mess with the accuracy, such as cancer or other afflictions, it’s still extremely surprising that a technique used by fruit and vegetable shoppers for centuries is more effective than what we could come up with in decades of medicine.
Image source: Wikimedia