A trial is taking place to electronically tag IVF embryos to prevent mistakes in clinics such as implanting the wrong embryos or fertilising eggs with the wrong sperm. The current system in the UK relies on staff monitoring each other but there have been a number of high-profile cases involving clinic mix-ups, including those where children of a different race to the 'parents' have been born. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is expected to rule later this month that higher standards are needed to prevent mistakes happening and is monitoring the trial currently taking place at the Essex Fertility Centre. 'We want to tighten security so that errors aren't made by clinics', said an HFEA spokesman. 'We are looking at a number of electronic systems including the one at the Essex Fertility Centre and will be making proposals for change in the near future'.
The system will involve the patient wearing an electronic tag with a personal code, all samples of sperm, eggs and embryos will also be tagged with a matching code. If unmatching tags are brought together during any procedure then alarms will sound. Andy Glew, chief embryologist at the Essex Fertility Centre, explained: 'Anything containing a patient's sperm, eggs or embryos carries an embedded microchip capable of transmitting radio signals. Embryologists are working with these samples every day and I am confident it is impossible to mix them up with this system - there are very clear warnings that an error is about to be made'. The system is thought to be the first of its kind in the world.