For most of us, time-lapse photography is something that is beautiful to look at and tricky to get right; for a team of researchers at a lab in Manchester, their time-lapse photography doesn't need to be beautiful to look at, but it does need to be right. They've been using it to monitor the development of embryos in the IVF process, consequently increasing the chances of a successful live birth.
The most common cause of IVF failure is aneuploidy, or chromosomal abnormality. In fact, it's estimated that about 70% of fertilised eggs, whether achieved naturally or via IVF, don't reach birth and in many cases the loss or gain of single chromosome is key.
By imaging an embryo every ten to 20 minutes and observing it at key stages of its development, the team at the CARE fertility clinic is able to identify if it is at low, medium, or high risk of chromosomal abnormality. In all, each embryo is photographed about 5,000 times before it is implanted, or not. The lower the risk of chromosomal abnormality, the higher the chance of a successful implantation, pregnancy, and birth.
At the moment, it is only a very small sample of embryos that have been subjected to CARE's cameras (88, in fact), but the results are encouraging. There was a 61% success rate of babies born to the low-risk group. The medium risk group had a 19% success rate, whilst the high-risk group didn't have any births.
It's early days, but for couples struggling to conceive, time-lapses might be the way forward.
(Via BBC radio news and the website)