IVF Technology is an ever-changing and evolving field. As scientists continue to look for ways to improve embryo transfer success and promote more term length pregnancies, the collective knowledge base continues to grow.
In most cases, created embryos are transferred into a waiting uterus between day 3 and day 5 of development. This time frame is carefully chosen to give the embryo the best chance to implant and continue to develop as possible. It has been widely believed that embryos cannot be kept alive outside of the body beyond day seven of development, unless they are frozen and stored for future use.
Researchers in the United Kingdom are challenging this common belief however, and hoping to enable research that will lead to more positive IVF transfers. In 2016, a lab was able to sustain embryonic life outside of the body for 13 days. Researchers suspect that life could have been further maintained, if not for a legal precedent that does not allow for research past 14 days, the point at which an embryo begins to develop neurons in the brain.
This extension of life in a lab is crucial for one key reason; it allows scientists to observe embryo development in a phase of development that is crucial to a positive pregnancy. In many cases an embryo will be transferred into a uterus on day 5, and give up to 14 days to implant and begin to grow. Keeping the embryo alive and outside of the body during this crucial time frame will allow doctors to more closely examine what changes are occurring in the embryo at this point in development, and to understand what needs to happen to encourage implantation.
Researchers also note that this phase of development is also when abnormalities and genetic defects can take shape, and that monitoring and studying cellular activity during these additional 6 days can shed fresh light on why this happens.
Researchers say that their hope is that, as this method of preservation continues, they may be able to learn more about how to prevent inherited diseases and encourage an improved IVF success rate.