The second emybroscope with a time-lapse system has arrived in Austria – to be precise, at the Kinderwunsch Institut in Dobl!
The embryoscope, manufactured by FertiliTech in Denmark, is a high-end device that increases the likelihood of a successful pregnancy to 89%. Until now, it was not possible to constantly monitor the fertilised eggs, which meant that no information on the speed of cell division was available. However, this new technology takes a picture of the cells every 12 minutes, resulting in a little film that shows how fast and at what exact point in time the difference stages of cell division are completed. This provides us with important information on the quality of the fertilised egg and enables us to implant the one egg that shows the best development characteristics – and this explains the high success rate of the treatment. But this is just one of the advantages of using an embryoscope: If a cell is conspicuous, experts from all over the world may be consulted to help younger embryologists make the right choice.
“When I saw the prototype at a trade fair in the US in 2008, I immediately knew that I was looking at the future”, says Dr Michael Schenk, who has since closely followed the development of the embryoscope. “We want to offer our patients the best possible therapy – and we are able to do so thanks to our in-house R&D department.” Independent studies, more effective therapies and state-of-the-art equipment are bringing more and more international patients to Austria.
PICSI – a natural method for assessing sperm quality and selecting the best possible sperm for fertilisation.
The method revolves around a PICSI petri dish that is coated with hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a substance that is naturally found around the female eggs and thus has no negative side effects either on the sperm or the egg cells. Only mature sperm has the receptors needed to bind with hyaluronic acid. This is nature’s way of making sure that only fully matured sperm reaches the egg cell.
Scientific studies show that mature sperm with fully developed receptors has a higher level of DNA integrity. The treatment is indicated in cases where anomalies have been found within the sperm; however, a minimum amount of sperm motility is required. Within this group of patients, PICSI has been successfully applied where fertilisation attempts have failed or several miscarriages occurred.
Application for sperm selection
This physiological process is imitated in the petri dish using hyaluronic acid, which means that only those sperm cells that bind with hyaluronic acid, i.e. those cells that are mature and have developed the required receptors, are used for fertilisation using ICSI (or PICSI), a physiological method for fertilisation.
Application for sperm assessment
In addition to being used for PICSI, hyaluronic acid can also be used for assessing the quality of sperm samples as part of a binding test during the process of clarification. Using the PICSI petri dish, the share of mature sperm cells with receptors in the ejaculated sperm is assessed, which then forms the basis for further treatment.
The video analysis shows not just the free-swimming sperm cells in the vicinity in and around the hyaluronic acid (circular area), but also those sperm cells whose receptors on the head have bound with the hyaluronic acid on the bottom of the dish while their tails keep rotating. These sperm cells are counted out in the binding test and are used for fertilising the eggs with the PICSI method.
Reproductive medicine is a vast area and relies on constant further development and training in order to ensure that patients receive the best possible level of care and expertise
Dr Michael Schenk has always been keen on promoting research, development and the implementation of state-of-the-art technologies. As yet another step in this direction, he has just graduated from the genetics diploma course offered by the Austrian Medical Association and was awarded the ÖAK-DIPLOM in genetics by the Institute for Human Genetics at the Medical University of Graz in April 2014.
Primarius Dr. Michael Schenk, MAS and the Kinderwunsch Institute are important partners for the Master’s degree course in Clinical Embryology of the UNI for Life. For more information, dates and curricula, visit the website of UNI for Life.
by Dr. Michael Schenk
Medicine often regards daily practice and scientific findings as opposites and treats them accordingly. In clinical embryology, however, practice absolutely needs science and science cannot exist without practice. The half-life of knowledge in this highly specialised field of research is short and the pressure for innovation is enormous.
In the field of clinical embryology, the only way for the expert staff of an IVF laboratory to acquire skills and competences is always based on “best practice” and/or “learning by doing” approaches.
Clinical embryology needs innovative, science-led opportunities to drive advances, to prepare clinical embryologists for the challenges of the future and to furnish them with a comprehensive knowledge base of the ethics of our daily work life, the demands that will be made of them as individuals and the highly diverse circumstances and frameworks prescribed by religious affiliations and legal stipulations.
The Master’s degree course in Clinical Embryology takes all these requirements into account. The course was developed according to the requirements profile for embryologists of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and provides comprehensive training.
Graduates of the degree course will have the necessary technical, scientific and ethical knowledge as well as the required soft skills to enable them to work independently in an IVF laboratory and any institution dealing with reproductive medicine after just a short period of familiarisation.