Next Generation Sequencing Promises to Increase IVF Success Rates

Next generation sequencing techniques hold promise for increasing the success rate of in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Dr Dagan Wells of the NIHR Biomedical Research Center at the University of Oxford announced on July 8, 2013 at the ESHRE annual meeting that an IVF birth had resulted, for the first time, due to embryo selection based on next generation sequencing results.

Historically, IVF success rates have stood at around 30%, thought to largely be due to DNA mutations in the embryo. Traditional sequencing techniques have been utilized in order to identify and utilize healthier embryos resulting in a higher success rate. The drawbacks, however, have been that these methods have been far too costly to be within reach of most patients.

Dr Wells and an international research team developed an embryo selection process using much faster and less costly next generation sequencing techniques. This process only takes about 16 hours avoiding the need for embryo freezing. Dr Wells technique also offers additional advantages when compared to previous techniques. Complete chromosome information can be produced and serious gene defects can be detected simultaneously.

As next generation sequencing has been revolutionizing many areas of genetic research, it looks poised to soon benefit IVF patients. “In the past few years, results from randomized clinical trials have suggested that most IVF patients would benefit from embryo chromosome screening, with some studies reporting a 50% boost in pregnancy rates. However, the costs of these genetic tests are relatively high, putting them beyond the reach of many patients. Next generation sequencing is a way which could make chromosome testing more widely available to a greater number of patients, improving access by cutting the costs. Our next step is a randomized clinical trial to reveal the true efficacy of this approach – and this will begin later this year.”  -Dr Wells

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