Cardiff and Oxford research aims to improve IVF success rates

The technique, developed in mice, looks at tiny movements inside embryos

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Fertility techniques used in mice could be used to improve IVF success rates in women, researchers claim.

Scientists at Cardiff University analysed the internal workings of the human egg to watch distinct rhythmic patterns.

Advanced imaging techniques were used to watch movements inside an egg that occur during fertilisation.

It is hoped the findings, published in the Fertility and Sterility journal, could reduce multiple births.

Professor Karl Swann, from Cardiff University's School of Medicine, led the research and said current IVF treatment involved fertilising eggs in a laboratory and implanting the healthiest embryos into the mother's womb.

"However, the implantation of selected eggs using current methods requires days in culture and does not always succeed," he said.

Success

"We already know from previous research in mice that sperm entry into the mouse egg triggers 'rhythmic cytoplasmic motions', which may help to predict successful embryo development.

"Adopting this key method we have now been able to show that the same type of rhythmic movements occur in human eggs."

The team worked with Oxford University and the HFEA-approved study was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Start Quote

This technique holds the promise of predicting the best embryo for IVF which should help cut down multiple pregnancies that often occurs.”

End Quote Professor Karl Swann Cardiff University

They used donated eggs that had failed to fertilise following IVF treatment.

The eggs were injected with an egg-activating sperm-specific protein, known as PLC-zeta, and then monitored for several hours.

For the first time, scientists were able to see distinct internal movements.

These movements correlate with the exact timing of biochemical changes occurring at fertilisation.

Prof Swann said: "Previous analysis of mouse fertilisation have suggested that using this technique may provide an early and effective indication of a successful pregnancy after IVF.

"We have now discovered that this method has the potential to be applied to human eggs.

"There is a still a great deal of additional research to confirm whether these movements directly correlate with positive pregnancy.

"But this technique holds the promise of predicting the best embryo for IVF which should help cut down multiple pregnancies that often occurs during IVF treatment as a result of transferring several embryos at a time."

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