IVF would be more successful if clinics also used ‘abnormal’ embryos, research shows

Couples undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) will have a greater chance of conceiving if embryos deemed “abnormal” are not discarded, new research suggests.

Embryos with some abnormalities present in their cells are too readily removed from batches due to concerns that they will fail to implant or lead to a miscarriage, two new studies claim.

These so-called “mosaic embryos” can still become healthy babies and fertility clinics should be braver in using them, as it increases the chances of success during IVF cycles, according to scientists.

The studies, from New York University Langone Fertility Center and the company Igenomix, were presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine last month.

The first study involved 35 women being implanted with mosaic embryos. The fetuses were tested for chromosomal abnormalities at the end of the first trimester, and none were found.

Same likelihood of having a healthy child

In the second study, scientists compared the outcomes during IVF of 484 embryos with normal chromosomes with 413 mosaic embryos. They found that the mosaic embryos were as likely to implant in the uterus as the normal embryos, and had the same likelihood of becoming a healthy baby.

Some 10 to 15 per cent of embryos are mosaic, which means their cells contain both normal and abnormal chromosomes. During IVF, embryos can be tested for mosaicism. Abnormal cells can sometimes increase the risk of the embryo failing to implant in the uterus, or miscarriage.

However, scientists point out that abnormalities in cells are very common in humans, and this is not always a valid reason to discount mosaic embryos.

They can also go through a process called “self-correction”, in which the abnormal cells begin dividing and eventually stop growing. This means a healthy baby can be born.

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