A new technique developed by researchers in Europe has been shown to significantly improve IVF success rates in the UK. However, can this same technique be applied in the US?
According to the study, which was published last week in the PLoS ONE journal, by using a new closed-incubator system in which embryos are handled in the in vitro fertilization process, IVF success rates were improved by up to 27%.
“By offering protection against external influences such as chemical pollutants, and protection from temperature and pH fluctuations, the [new] system facilitates consistent and reproducible outcomes in assisted conception treatments,” wrote the authors of the study in their report.
Normally, during and IVF procedure, between the time when embryos are created and transferred into the uterus, they are monitored in a laboratory setting. This monitoring process requires periodic removal from the incubators, and therefore exposure to the outside environment.
“Having a well-controlled environment in in vitro fertilization is very important for success,” explained Dr. Robert Stillman, medical director of Shady Grove Fertility Center, to TIME.
Can IVF Success Rates Be Improved in the US?
However, IVF success rates in the US are already generally quite a bit better than those in the UK. In Europe, due to healthcare restrictions and the widespread implementation of single embryo transfer policies, IVF success rates have been stuck in the low-30% for many years.
“The most recent European data show clinical IVF pregnancy rate per cycle of 32.5%,” said the Center for Human Reproduction in statement last month. “Conservatively assuming a miscarriage rate of 15%, this would translate into delivery rates of 26.6%. During the same time period, the US delivery rate was 40.7%.”
Similar advanced embryo incubator techniques, including the use of micro-environments and controlled video systems are already being employed in the US and therefore contribute to already significantly better IVF success rates.
“[These researchers] have the right idea,” concluded Dr. Stillman to TIME. “If you control the environment, you often get improvements in outcomes with IVF. But would we be able to increase our success rates by 27%? I think [the US is] already toward the max.”