Tens of thousands of photos of an embryo are uploaded into a software and analyzed by doctors.
“The name of the game is trying to get our patient pregnant as soon as possible and faster,” explained embryologist Matthew “Tex” VerMilyea.
Right now, embryologist look through a microscope and score the embryo based on its size and if it looks healthy, but depending on experience the embryologist could score an embryo differently.
“What’s difficult is that we’ve got 7 or 8 embryologist. All of them could be looking at the same embryo, but guaranteed all of them would have a slightly different grade,” said VerMilyea. “Removing that subjectivity out of embryo selection and using this tool to help us better pinpoint and identify that one superior embryo.”
The computer has had a 30% higher success rate than the embryologist who studies the embryo under a microscope to see which is the healthiest.
“The fact that it may be able to replace our need right now to drill a hole in an embryo with a laser and remove cells from that embryo would be fabulous, because not only would it save tremendous amount of expense it would also potentially save some embryos that we may be inadvertently damaging through this process,” said Dr. Kaylen Silverberg, Medical Director of Texas Fertility Center. “We think that may very well leave patients with potentially more embryos that have the opportunity to become healthy babies.”
IVF can cost couples around $20,000 each cycle. The new technology could lower the cost.
Emily Watkins has had multiple IVF rounds and understands the significance.
“It would’ve saved us a lot of tears,” said Watkins. “If we would’ve had this opportunity, then it just would’ve saved a lot. Maybe we wouldn’t have done so many transfers… so many embryos that weren’t viable.”
It took the Watkins family 13 years to have their baby girl. She’s now 3-years-old.
Texas Fertility Center is one of just a handful of clinics in the country testing the artificial intelligence.
The IVF lab company, Ovation Fertility, and an Australian-based technology company, Life Whisperer, are behind the study and technology.
Dr. Silverberg says it’s not clear how much it could cost and if insurance will cover it. He said it will have to get FDA approval and could take several years before it’s ready to be rolled out across the country.