Over the last several years Carolina Conceptions has been offering embryo biopsy to rule out chromosomal abnormalities and genetic diseases in future pregnancies. One of the downsides of the technique was that biopsies were performed after 3 days of embryo culture, which was later discovered to limit the ability of the embryo to undergo normal development. This actually reduced the chance of pregnancy, often erasing any advantage that was provided by the biopsy procedure.
Now Carolina Conceptions can perform the biopsy on embryos during day 5 of culture and transfer chromosomally normal embryos to the uterus as early as the next afternoon. By postponing the day of biopsy, the embryos are less stressed by the procedure because there are more cells due to the extra time to develop. Furthermore, several cells from the embryo are biopsied on day 5, rather than a single cell on day 3. By examining several cells, we greatly improve the ability to get accurate results for the genetic analysis of each embryo. Recent studies have shown that embryo development is not compromised by a day 5 biopsy, and the subsequent transfer of the genetically normal embryos is much more likely to result in a healthy pregnancy.
In the past 9 months, Carolina Conceptions has completed this procedure in 13 couples and 11 have conceived. More than half of the patients who have had this procedure are older than 35, which is typically associated with much lower pregnancy rates when IVF without biopsy is performed. Because only 50% of the embryos we have biopsied are chromosomally normal, we can now be sure to only use embryos believed to be genetically normal.
There are many patients who may benefit from day 5 embryo biopsy. Women of advanced maternal age (>35 year old), for example, are at increased risk for chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome. Also, some women who have had repeated miscarriages have been found to have chromosomal problems. Couples who are known to be at risk for having a child with a genetic disease may also greatly benefit from the procedure, by preventing pregnancy affected with the disease. As embryo biopsy becomes more widespread, the rate of healthy live births from IVF will likely increase.