New embryo image processing technology could assist in IVF implantation success rates

A collaboration between biologists and engineers at Monash University has led to the development of a new noninvasive image processing technique to visualize embryo formation. Researchers were able to see, for the first time, the movement of all of the cells in living mammalian embryos as they develop under the microscope. This breakthrough has important implications for IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). In the future, this approach could help with embryo selection before the embryo is implanted back into the uterus to improve IVF success rates.
This latest research provides new insights into embryo formation and challenges the prevailing model of cell placement through division.
Mammalian embryos start out as a small group of identical cells. Then at an early stage, some of these cells take up an internal position within the embryo. These internal cells are the ones that will go on to form all of the cells of the body while the remaining outer cells go on to form other tissues such as the placenta.
For many years, researchers theorized that the internal cells adopt their position through a special process of cell division, but due to technological limitations, this had never actually been shown. Using their newly developed imaging methods, the Monash University researchers were able to demonstrate that this model of embryo formation was incorrect.
The researchers then applied cutting-edge laser techniques to the mammalian embryo (previously used in fly and plant embryos or cultured cells only) to determine what forces were acting on the cells to make them move inside the embryo.
Using these new imaging techniques, researchers were able to see how the cells moved and changed shape over time as they were