Dubbo GPs hear of breakthrough in selecting healthy embryos for IVF

VISITOR: Associate Professor Peter Illingworth has told Dubbo GPs of a "major development" in IVF treatment during a visit to the city this week. Photo: Contributed

VISITOR: Associate Professor Peter Illingworth has told Dubbo GPs of a "major development" in IVF treatment during a visit to the city this week. Photo: Contributed

Dubbo GPs have heard about a new super computer which could potentially reduce the time it takes for a woman to get pregnant through IVF (in vitro fertilisation).

Medical director of IVFAustralia, Associate Professor Peter Illingworth, spoke of the "major development" at a meeting in Dubbo on Wednesday night.

Associate Professor Illingworth treats up to 70 Dubbo and district couples each year in collaboration with Macquarie Women's Health in Bultje Street.

He told the GPs of the super computer called IVY using new artificial intelligence to select the healthiest embryo for transfer to a woman undergoing IVF.

Clinical studies are yet to be conducted on the pioneering research by Australian scientists.

"Scientists over the past 20 years have researched many ways to help IVF doctors choose the healthiest embryo, mostly based on the appearance of the embryo, for transfer to a woman undergoing IVF," Associate Professor Illingworth said.

"We've had time-lapse imaging systems in place for a while, capturing images at regular intervals, without disturbing or removing the embryos from the incubator, enabling embryologists to review the developmental process.

"Time-lapse imaging produces vast amounts of data about the growing embryos but so far, no one has been able to turn this into improved clinical care.

"However, exciting new research is under way to further investigate the potential of an artificial intelligent system that collates thousands of time-lapse images, embryo photographs taken every 10 minutes, during the five days of incubation."

Associate Professor Illingworth said the IVY artificial intelligence system had been trained without human bias, to predict the embryo with the best chance of developing a fetal heart.

"An embryologist can then rank the most viable embryo for transfer which is very exciting and gives IVY technology the potential to shorten the time frame to a successful pregnancy," he said.

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Associate Professor Illingworth identified the potential benefits to women as "less time, strain and cost" in falling pregnant.

The specialist and his staff use phone and internet technology to consult with Dubbo and district couples and counsel them.

"Knowing that people in regional areas do have to travel to the laboratory site (in Sydney), we have to do everything we can to make the rest of the fertility treatment as local and convenient for them as possible," Associate Professor Illingworth said.

That includes surgical procedures carried out by Dr Ajith Samaratunga of the Bultje Street practice, blood tests and ultrasounds.

"We have a pharmacist colleague in Dubbo, Tim Koerstz, whose team is experienced in the handling and dispensing of the medications that are needed," Associate Professor Illingworth said.

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He has been treating Dubbo and district couples for 15 years, describing them as "lovely people".

This story How a super computer could help women undergoing IVF get pregnant faster first appeared on Daily Liberal.