Good Eggs

Fertilization of a human egg
Fertilization of a human egg

Researchers at Molecular Biometrics LLC, a New Jersey company formed by McGill chemistry professor David Burns and colleagues, have developed a non-invasive test to identify embryos capable of producing successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancies. IVF is one of the primary treatments of infertility; the technique involves removing egg cells, fertilizing the cells, then implanting them in the uterus.

Current embryo screening methods are inexact, relying on visual examination of the embryo’s appearance. In contrast, the new ViaTest-E analyzes the culture medium that bathes the developing in vitro embryo. Burns used spectroscopic analysis to examine the molecular composition of the culture medium three to five days after IVF. These studies, conducted in collaboration with members of Molecular Biometrics’ Scientific Advisory Board, led to the development of ViaTest-E. The project expands on earlier research collaborations with Kristine Koski, professor in the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, and Dr. Hyman Schipper, professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery.

“What we found was a very tight correlation between the probability of implantation and certain measurable properties in the culture medium or fluid,” says Burns. “Basically, we are determining how metabolically active each embryo is in the culture.”

The test promises to increase IVF success rates, while decreasing occurrences of multiple births by reducing the need to simultaneously implant several fertilized egg cells. And that’s welcome news indeed for prospective parents.

This research is funded by NSERC and CIHR.