In this webinar, Evi Timotheou, BcS, MSc, Senior Clinical Embryologist, Lab Director at Assisting Nature, explained what IVF add-ons are and when they should be indicated.
Evi started by introducing several techniques used in the lab that help to increase the chances of successful IVF treatment. The most common techniques used are IMSI, PICSI, MACS, Assisted Hatching, Embryo monitoring and EmbryoGlue.
IMSI (Intracytoplasmic morphologically selected sperm injection)
It’s a method that allows the intracytoplasmatic sperm injection of morphologically selected sperm. The sperm is seen with high magnification (6000 to 6600), and it allows the embryologists to choose only the healthiest sperm with the best morphology. This method is used when spermatozoa have mitochondrial dysfunction or DNA damage. It helps to identify spermatozoa with a normal nucleus and nuclear content. IMSI can contribute to improving the success rates in patients diagnosed with oligo-asthenoteratozoospermia. According to studies, it has been shown that this particular method can lead to better fertilization rates, better embryo quality and, in consequence, better pregnancy rates. In addition, IMSI is a great technique for couples with unexplained infertility or with repeated implantation failures.
PICSI (Physiological intracytoplasmic sperm injection)
PICSI is another technique that helps to select sperm. It offers new assessment criteria, as it is based on the ability of the sperm to bind the hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is used as a sperm selector. A dish which contains special culture media with hyaluronic acid is used, and when a sperm sample is added, only spermatozoa with the best quality bind to the acid.
The principle of this method is based on the fact that hyaluronic acid naturally occurs in the substance that surrounds the oocyte and plays a critical role in spermicide fusion. This method is indicated for patients
with repeated implantation failures, recurrent miscarriages and if a male has a high DNA fragmentation.
MACS – Magnetic-Activated Cell Sorting
MACS is based on the immune-magnetic separation and selection of good-quality spermatozoa, it is capable of fertilizing the oocytes and removing apoptotic spermatozoa. It’s based on the use of magnetic nanoparticles which have surface-specific antibodies to recognize and adhere to only apoptotic spermatozoa. The sample then passes through a magnetic filter that binds apoptotic sperm while allowing it to pass the normal one. This method is usually used in patients who have poor embryo quality, and have gone through several miscarriages as well as when a man is diagnosed high rate of DNA fragmentation.
AH (Assisted hatching)
This technique is usually used in assisting reproduction shortly before the embryo transfer. An embryologist does a small opening or a thinning using a special laser in the zona pellucida. It is recommended in cases where the zona pellucida of the embryo is believed to be thick and stiff to prevent implantation. This helps to release the embryo from the zona pellucida and its implantation. It is also used for those patients who have had 2 or more failed cycles in the past.
Embryo monitoring is a continuous tracking of the individual development of embryos. Thanks to a video recording, it is possible to determine which embryo develops normally and is best suited for transfer, which has the greatest chance of developing into a healthy baby.
Another advantage of this imaging system is that the embryologists can view the embryos 24 hours a day without the need to remove them from the stable conditions of the incubator.
Another useful tool is the EmbryoGlue, which is not glue but acts like glue by increasing the chance of implantation of the embryo in the womb. It consists of a high concentration of hyaluronan and recombinant human albumin, both of which promote implantation. EmbryoGlue mimics the natural environment in the womb. All the nutrients and the energy substrates in EmbryoGlue are adapted to the embryo’s needs at the time of implantation.
Thanks to those methods, it’s possible to improve the fertilization rates, and by mixing them all, it’s possible to improve the embryo quality, increase the blastulation rate, implantation rate and finally increase the pregnancy rate, the pure purpose of all those techniques other than just increasing the rates is to help the couple to have a healthy baby.