Metabolomics-Machine Tests IVF Embryo’s Waste to Achieve Pregnancy

embryo-brochure.jpg8-cell human embryo from Gold Coast IVF


Next in my series of updates from my visit to the Annual Meeting of the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) is a potentially amazing technology to help identify a healthy embryo in a dish.  IVF (in vitro fertilization) has become our most powerful toiol to help infertile couples achieve a pregnancy.  More than 100,000 procedures are performed each year in the USA alone.  We have come so very far since the birth of Louise Brown 30 years ago (she’s a mon herself now). The technology has progressed to the point where getting eggs and sperm and having them joing to make an embryo is no longer the hurdle it one was.  However, picking a healthy embryo from the group growing in the dish remains an inexact science.  Today this process is based upon morphology.  We have a very crude grading system based esentially on the speed of division of the cells and on how regular the cells appear.  This yields a rough system with a grade from 1-5.  This would be like your doctor looking at you from across the street and estimating if you were healthy.  You’ll get correct information only some of the time.  Well the powerful new technique of PGS (preimplantation genetic screening) where we biopsy a growing embryo and test its genetics has shown recently that fully 1/2 of apparently good looking embryos are genetically abnormal and incompatible of leading to a living baby.

Metabolomics is the study of the small-molecule metabolite byproducts left behind from cellular processes.  In simple terms it’s like examining poop.  The concept is that by measuring the collection of all the byproducts of the cells metabolism you can get a snapshot of the physiology of a cell or embryo and that translates to health. 

Molecular Biometrics is looking to turn this new science of metabolomics into a noninvasive test to pick the healthy viable embryo from the dish and increase the chances of pregnancy.  I know the Medical Director and the President from my days when I was Clinic Chief of Infertility at Yale University and my former fellow is one of their researchers.  I spoke with them at length about ther work. 

As they say in their press release:

The study was designed to assess embryo viability using a novel technology developed by Molecular Biometrics based on themetabolomic profiling of Oxidative Stress (OS) biomarkers. The goal of the technology is to
identify metabolomic differences in viable verses non-viable embryos so only the highest quality embryos can be selected for transfer in IVF. This non-invasive test analyzes OS biomarkers in normally discarded culture media. The biomarkers are quantified using Molecular Biometrics’ proprietary spectroscopic analysis and advanced bioinformatics.  The study group concluded that detectable differences exist in the metabolomic profiles found in culture media obtained from embryos that cause pregnancy compared to those that do not. The reported metabolomic parameters were established using two different forms of spectroscopic analysis, Raman and Near Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, with media samples obtained from three different IVF programs. The metabolomic method achieved high sensitivity and specificiity >85%. 

The bigest advantage in addition to increased pregnancy rates would be that if we can identify a healthy embryo destined to implant, then we can put fewer back into the uterus and lower the risk of multiple pregnancies from IVF treatments.  Another study found the system could also identify normal vs abnormal sperm.  If it is proven to work this would be a breakthrough technology. 

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