Is your fertilized egg viable? Squeeze it to find out

A new study suggests that squeezing fertilized eggs could drastically improve IVF success.

Researchers have devised a strange new method that will supposedly benefit a vast number of children born via in-vitro fertilization. According to a report from Gizmodo, a new study suggests that testing the viability of a human embryo could be no more complicated than testing the freshness of a fruit at the market – by squishing it.

Researchers from Stanford University claim that the squishiness of an egg just an hour after it has been fertilized is a good indicator of whether or not it could be implanted and carried to birth successfully.

In-vitro fertilization works by doctors injecting sperm cells into an egg. They watch the egg to see how many blastocyst cells begin dividing, and up until now, made decisions about viability based on the rate of cell replication. The new study suggests, however, that testing viability of embryos is much simpler.

According to co-author and bioengineer Livia Yanez, “A lot of twins are born because we don’t know which embryos are viable or not, so we transfer several at one time. This can increase the risk of neonatal mortality and cause complications for babies and the mothers.”

Using a small pipette, scientists applied pressure to mouse egg cells just an hour after they had been fertilized. The eggs with a squishy texture, or the ones that “pushed back” proved to be less deformed than more rigid ones during the blastocyst stage. The team then devised a computer model that could tell with 90 percent accuracy whether a blastocyst will be asymmetrical, unhealthy, or will suffer complications as it develops.

The study suggests that when it comes to egg cells, squishier is better. Animals with squishier eggs implanted were 50 percent more likely to have a birth free of complications than those with rigid eggs.

The team replicated the findings with human eggs, and found that squishier eggs had an even higher rate of success than in mice. The discovery could lead to vast improvements in in-vitro fertilization techniques.

The study, published in the journal Nature, can be found here.

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