Recently, a friend of mine from college just had her first child. She and her husband have tried for years and were just considering IVF treatments when they found out they were pregnant. Infertility can devastate some couples, but advancements in IFV have been able to give many families the children they’ve always wanted.

However, IVF isn’t foolproof. Sometimes it doesn’t work and it can take a few tries before a woman conceives. This process is expensive and multiple tries can rack up quite a bill. Because of this, scientists have been trying to improve IVF so that genetic defects that prevent pregnancy or cause birth defects and medical issues can be found before the egg is fertilized.

The ability to detect genetic defects in sperm cells has been around for quite a few years, but until recently, the ability to detect genetic defects in eggs wasn’t known to scientists and doctors even though most genetic defects are found in egg cells, not sperm cells.

A study published by Cell Press December 19th in the journal Cell revealed a new safe and accurate method that was also low-cost to select genetically normal embryos for an IVF procedure and increase a couple's chances of producing a healthy child.

Author of the study, Jie Qiao of Third Hospital, Peking University, says that theoretically, if this works perfectly, we will be able to double the success rate of test tube baby technology from 30 percent to 60 percent or even more."

The solution was found through whole-genome sequencing of individual egg cells. The newly discovered method detects chromosomal abnormalities and DNA sequence variations associated with genetic disorders. This allows doctors to select only the egg cells that are most likely to produce a healthy child and decrease the chances of the IVF treatments failing or producing a child with genetic defects.

There are a few procedures available right now that detect genetic defects in embryos prior to implantation. However, these methods are often invasive and they require the removal of cells from the growing embryo. Also, they don’t simultaneously detect both chromosomal abnormalities and DNA sequence variations that are often associated with genetic disorders.

Xie says that "if the clinical trial works, this technique could enormously increase the success rate of IVF, especially for older women or women who have had recurrent miscarriages."

The method will also work for younger women with infertility issues as well, and the researchers are hopeful that the new method will make IVF treatments overall more successful the first time.

Source: Cell Press (2013, December 19). New method to detect genetic defects in egg cells could double success rate of IVF. ScienceDaily.