A primary challenge of in vitro fertilization (IVF)—the practice of jumpstarting a pregnancy by manually combining egg and sperm in a laboratory and then implanting the resulting embryo into a uterus—is selecting the best embryo for use. When screening these fragile balls of cells for genetic or structural abnormalities, they can become irreversibly damaged if they are handled or thrown under a microscope too often. Such disturbances make them unlikely to implant and turn into a successful pregnancy.
At Genea, one of the world’s leading IVF companies based in Sydney Australia, a huge focus is placed on researching and expanding new technologies and techniques to improve IVF success rates. The company is currently testing an embryo incubator that has a built-in video monitoring system to help scientists track embryo growth without disruption. They have also developed a device that freezes eggs consistently and rapidly.
Dr. Don Leigh, principal scientist at Genea, plays a major role in selecting and initiating testing on new techniques, including the use of Illumina next-generation sequencing technologies—such as the VeriSeq PGS on the MiSeq System—to improve the quality and speed of genetic testing. Such improvements have made genetic screening of embryos more cost effective and widely available to families.