A study presented at this year's annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology introduced a new method of egg testing for women undergoing preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) as part of their fertility care treatment.
Typically, fertility care experts have to biopsy the polar body or remove a cell from the egg or embryo to test for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down's Syndrome during IVF treatments. These procedures are invasive and risk damaging the cell, leaving it unfit fit for implantation (source: ESHRE). Dr. Fragouli of the University of Oxford has discovered a method of chromosomal testing that decreases this risk, as well as the cost associated with PGS, by examining the cells that float around the egg or embryo.
According to Fragouli and her team, the 'egg and the cumulus cells [cells that exist in a cloud outside the egg] are in constant communication and depend upon each other for continued viability." By analyzing the changes in cumulus cells that result from chromosomal abnormalities within the egg, they argue, such testing can assist fertility care doctors in their treatment of patients, as the information from cumulus cell may help reveal chromosomal abnormalities to doctors and patients without having to biopsy polar bodies. This will further assist doctors in implanting the healthiest eggs possible during IVF procedures. In addition, cumulus cells are usually stripped from eggs during IVF treatments, making them easily obtainable for chromosomal testing.
Dr. Fragouli and her team were able to make connections between the presence of chromosomal abnormalities in the cumulus cells found in polar bodies that produced the same genetic flaws. The team is still working to establish if cumulus cell analysis can provide even deeper insight into the agents of chromosomal abnormalities (even deeper than that of PGS), and hope the findings can provide useful information concerning the healthiest eggs to utilize in IVF procedures in order to increase the rate of healthy pregnancies and live births.