Fertility clinics have a new tool for monitoring the early development of fertilized eggs into blastocysts/embryos, before a decision has to be made regarding which embryos(s) to implant in the woman. It’s called the Embryoscope Time-lapse embryo monitoring System, or just the Embryoscope for short.
The Embryoscope is an incubation chamber with a built-in time-lapse microscopy and data recording system that can incubate and monitor up to 72 embryos at a time. Because the embryos do not need to be removed repeatedly from the incubation chamber to be examined, the risk of damaging the developing embryo is reduced. In addition, the operator can review the entire dynamic sequence of cell divisions of the embryo rather than just selected snapshots in time. (For a time-lapse view of embryonic development, see the NBC news report on the Embryoscope) Time-lapse microscopy allows the operator to assess the precise timing of each cell division and whether or not the cell divisions are synchronous. (Do the first two cells divide into four at the same time?) And because the data are stored digitally, the operator need not be physically present at precisely 12 hours, for example, to be able to assess embryonic development at the 12-hour stage.
The Embryoscope should markedly increase efficiency in the fertility clinic. It should also help health professionals decide which embryos are the best candidates for implantation. It is not known how many fertility clinics are already using the Embryoscope, but I expect the number to increase.