Couples with fertility issues are set to benefit from a new, advanced IVF embryo genetic-testing laboratory.
City Fertility Centre, a national IVF service, has spent the past 12 months developing a dedicated advanced embryo-screening laboratory that utilises array Comparative Genomic Hybridisation (CGH) testing. The laboratory will be the first of its kind in Queensland; previously this type of testing has only been done in southern states.
Adnan Catakovic, scientific director and chief executive officer of City Fertility Centre, said the $300,000 laboratory would be hugely beneficial for couples experiencing failed IVF attempts, recurrent miscarriages or specific genetic disorders.
“Ultimately, CGH testing prioritises chromosomally normal embryos for transfer and that in turn increases the chances of IVF success,” Mr Catakovic said.
“Most chromosomally abnormal embryos do not implant, or will miscarry shortly after implantation. By ensuring that embryos with a normal number of chromosomes are identified and given maximum priority for transfer to the uterus, the probability of conceiving a healthy child should increase with CGH testing.”
Through the microscope, in most cases, chromosomally normal and abnormal embryos look identical. With CGH testing, the 23 pairs of chromosomes are tested and compared to “normal” DNA. This is done by taking cells from the embryo on either day three or day five of development and carrying out tests to analyse their genetic make-up.
“In women 35 and older, approximately 35 per cent of pregnancies are miscarried,” Mr Catakovic said. “Chromosomal defects account for 50 per cent or more of these losses. CGH testing has the potential to eliminate these unnecessary miscarriages by ensuring they are not transferred in the first place.”
CGH testing will distinguish between a patient’s chromosomally normal and abnormal embryos. In some cases the test may find that all embryos are chromosomally abnormal (aneuploidy). Mr Catakovic said that in such cases, it might help the patient understand that she may need to consider an egg or sperm donor.
“While not the ideal outcome for a patient, it can prevent them having to go through repeated IVF attempts that are always destined for failure due to the abnormal chromosomal make-up of their embryos,” he said.
“Advanced maternal age is the biggest factor in this scenario. CGH offers much more precise information than standard genetic testing like the fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) technique has in the past.”
The CGH test can also detect chromosomal genetic disorders such as Down syndrome and Edwards syndrome.
“The emotional and physical cost on patients who experience failed IVF attempts and miscarriages can be heartbreaking,” Mr Catakovic said.
“CGH testing should remove this heartache.”