How laser techniques are helping to overcome infertility
An estimated one in seven couples experience difficulty conceiving. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has been rapidly expanding since the birth of Louise Brown, the first test tube baby, in 1978. Although an increasingly complex array of laboratory skills and procedures have been developed for infertility treatments, the success rate of ART hovers around 30%. Even in successful cases, the incidence of multiple births, due to multiple embryo transfer, and their associated morbidity, is dangerously high.
In an attempt to make ART safer and more efficient, international medical practice is trending towards single embryo transfers and the use of innovative, sophisticated technologies to identify promising gametes and embryos with the highest potential to generate a pregnancy. Laser technology is increasingly being used to accomplish these aims and improve the efficiency of ART. The use of laser technology reduces procedure times and increases consistency and reproducibility of traditional ART techniques such as embryo biopsy and assisted embryo hatching.
Beam me up, baby: exploring the use of lasers in assisted reproductive technologies (Lien M. Davidson, Celine Jones, Tracey Griffiths and Kevin Coward)
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Lien Davidson from the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology is a recent graduate of the MSc in Clinical Embryology and is now a DPhil student in Dr Kevin Coward’s research group, which explores the use of infra-red lasers as an investigative tool for developmental biology and early stage embryos. Celine Jones, Laboratory Manager for the Coward group and for the MSc in Clinical Embryology, has a broad range of research interests including the cellular, biochemical, and molecular mechanisms of oocyte activation. Tracey Griffiths is a Senior Clinical Embryologist with the Oxford Fertility Unit, with special responsibility for training and the Unit’s embryo biopsy service.
Dr Kevin Coward is Director of the Oxford MSc in Clinical Embryology and Principal Investigator in the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (University of Oxford). Dr Coward’s research interests include oocyte activation deficiency, male factor infertility, the potential detrimental effects of ART technologies upon gametes, and the development of novel nanoparticle-mediated delivery systems for gametes and embryos. The latest addition to his research portfolio involves the use of lasers in ART and incorporates collaboration with Research Instruments Ltd (Falmouth, Cornwall).