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Biopsy of egg DNA to aid IVF

10 October 2011

By Dr Lux Fatimathas

Appeared in BioNews 628

US researchers have developed a way to analyse the viability of human eggs at a genetic level without causing them harm. This technology will help improve the chances of successful IVF for couples with fertility problems.

'There's a lot of work that needs to be done, but it's a small step in hopefully being able to improve IVF medicine in the long term', said Mr Adrian Reich, lead author of the study at Brown University, Providence Rhode Island.

'Currently, the most widely-used metrics for evaluating an egg for IVF are based on how the egg looks', continued Reich. Based on this assessment, the eggs deemed to look best and therefore have the most potential for successful fertilisation, are chosen. Maximising on the quality of eggs used in IVF improves the chances of a viable pregnancy. This has led to the current investigation into a more accurate and quantifiable method to judge egg quality.

In this study researchers determined the health of the eggs by analysing their polar bodies. During the production of eggs asymmetric cell divisions occur, which result in the production of an egg and one or two accompanying polar bodies. Polar bodies contain an extra copy of chromosomes that the egg has discarded, as well as a small amount of the egg's mRNA (messenger RNA) – a blueprint of the egg's DNA. By taking a biopsy of the polar body, the researchers were able to obtain an indication of the genetic quality of the egg, without perturbing the egg itself.

'This was the first step in determining whether or not it might be possible to determine the quality of individual oocytes [eggs] in a cohort of oocytes', said Reich. Researchers were for the first time able to isolate mRNA from polar bodies and determine its sequence, using single-cell sequencing. This was also carried out in the eggs themselves for comparison, and revealed that the mRNA from the polar body was a good representation of the genetic quality of the egg itself.

'It seems that the polar body does reflect what is in the egg. Because the egg is the major driver of the first three days of human embryo development, what we find in the polar body may give us a clue into what is happening during that time', said Professor Sandra Carson, director of the Centre for Reproduction and Infertility at Women and Infants Hospital, Providence Rhode Island, who co-authored the study.

Future work will involve further validation of the technique and determining which genes are particularly important in governing egg quality.

'If this technology is validated, we will be able to tell if this egg is a good egg or an egg incapable of making a human being. It's a very exciting piece of information for people doing IVF, but it's preliminary', said Dr Edmond Confino, an infertility expert at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who was not involved in the study.

This study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Medill Chicago | 07 October 2011
Eurekalert | 07 October 2011
Brown Daily Herald | 07 October 2011
The Journal of Biological Chemistry | 07 October 2011


14 November 2016 - by Dr Katie Howe 
US researchers have created functional eggs using DNA from small cells that normally form as waste products during egg development...
08 May 2012 - by Ana Pallesen 
An IVF test which checks whether embryos carry the correct number of chromosomes could improve the chances of a successful pregnancy, a clinical trial suggests. The test – developed by the biotech company Blue Gnome – is used five days after an egg has been fertilised and helps doctors select which embryos should be implanted during IVF treatment...
05 March 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Protecting embryos from a laboratory environment during IVF treatment could increase successful pregnancy rates from 35 percent to 45 percent. A novel system, trialled in a recent study, consists of a chain of fully enclosed, interlinked incubators, provides a tightly controlled and protected environment...
24 October 2011 - by Dr Rosie Gilchrist 
Researchers at Oxford University have developed a test that may help to improve IVF success rates by checking the health of embryos. The team, led by Dr Dagan Wells, has apparently developed a test which checks embryos during IVF for abnormal numbers of chromosomes...

15 August 2011 - by Dr Tamara Hirsch 
Rhythmic activity detected in newly fertilised mouse eggs may provide a novel and non-invasive screening method for identifying embryos most likely to survive a full-term pregnancy, according to research published in Nature Communications...
06 June 2011 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Women at risk of passing on mitochondrial disease to their children could use PGD to give birth to an unaffected child. The scientists at Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands claim their work has the potential to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial diseases...
03 May 2011 - by Professor Alison Murdoch 
Medicine has faced many controversial milestones, none more so than those involving reproduction. The UK Government must now decide whether we can use IVF technology to reduce the risk of transmission of mitochondrial DNA abnormalities. Will they accept it or reject it?...
11 April 2011 - by Harriet Vickers 
The UK Government's advisory body on genetics has said there are no legal, social or ethical barriers to pre-pregnancy genetic screening, and that this could be offered routinely on the NHS. In a report out last week, the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) said testing should be 'equally available to all those who may benefit from it'....

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