About Time Lapse Imaging
Traditional observations of embryos during an IVF procedure give a glimpse into the development of the human embryo as it develops from a single cell to a blastocyst five days after egg collection. This involves bringing the embryos out of the incubator, so that they can be assessed under the microscope, which could theoretically be stressful for the embryos because of the change of environmental conditions.
To minimise the disturbance and stress to the embryos, microscopic observations are usually carried out once a day or every other day, to assess the morphology (form, shape, appearance and developmental stage) of the embryos. This means that there is a potential of missing significant events during embryo development while they are in the incubator not being observed. Since embryo morphology is the primary way in which embryos are selected for a transfer there is a dilemma in how to get the most information from the observations without repeatedly removing the embryos from the incubator.
In contrast to traditional morphology assessment, time-lapse technology uses a camera system placed within an incubator to take an image of the embryos every five or ten minutes without removing them from the incubator. These images can then be combined together to make a video clip, which can be studied remotely on a computer screen to assess the “continuously” changing morphology of the embryos, without having to take them out of the incubator. This also allows the embryologists to spot any abnormal development of embryos, which may be missed by conventional assessment. This gives more information and helps the embryologists to choose the best embryo(s) for transfer without causing any additional environmental stress to the embryos.