Happy World Embryologist Day!

World Embryologists Day was created to celebrate the advances in the field of reproductive medicine and to recognize the scientists who contribute to it. July 25th was chosen because it is the birthday of the first IVF baby, Louise Joy Brown, who was born in 1978.

We have many embryologists who dedicate their time and talent to help build families at IVF Michigan & Ohio Fertility Centers.

We asked Mike about his role as an embryologist at IVF Michigan & Ohio Fertility Centers.

What is the main role of an embryologist at IVF Michigan & Ohio Fertility Centers?

Embryologists are essentially the caregivers of the patient’s gametes and eventual embryos. Much of what happens in the embryology lab is analogous to what happens in the fallopian tubes in a natural conception, namely fertilization and embryo growth.

So before any procedure is performed, the team of embryologists must create the best environment possible through rigorous quality control of all equipment, such as incubators as well as the various culture media and disposable materials needed to culture embryos.

How are embryos created and what is the process?

-The typical procedure starts on day 0 with an egg retrieval. Follicles are aspirated in the OR and placed into test tubes. Usually, two embryologists work together and start searching these tubes one by one until they identify and isolate all the eggs present.
-Next, through enzymatic and mechanical action, the embryologist must denude the egg, which essentially means stripping away the cumulus complex that surrounds and nourishes the egg during development. This preps the egg for ICSI and allows the embryologist to determine the maturity of the egg.
-At the same time, the semen sample will be processed by the andrology lab. They will remove all the semen and dead sperm, giving a highly motile sample in culture media.
-The eggs, if meant for ICSI, are injected with the partner’s sperm. This is done with the use of a microscope and micromanipulators. This is a procedure that requires a lot of skill. Alternatively, we may vitrify the eggs, a procedure that involves a lot of skill and training.
-The eggs must then be checked the next day for fertilization. They are then cultured until day 5.
-On day 5 embryologist must evaluate the embryo stage and quality
-If a fresh transfer is to be performed, then an embryologist has to select the best quality embryo for transfer. At the time of transfer, it is the duty of an embryologist to precisely load the catheter and assist the physician with the transfer. Afterward, the embryologist must vitrify (freeze) the remaining good-quality embryos. This may go on until day 7 as embryos do grow at different rates.
-Some cycles are freeze all so on days 5,6, and 7, suitable embryos will be vitrified (frozen).
-Most cycles are PGT. So on days 5,6 and 7 suitable quality embryos are biopsied before being vitrified, and the individual samples are sent to a genetics lab for analysis. The biopsy is performed using micromanipulators and a laser.
-The vast majority of our transfers are frozen transfers. So embryologists perform many thaws of embryos. Sometimes up to 15 a day are performed.

The overall goal is to provide the ideal environment for embryo culture so attention to detail and quality control procedures are crucial.

What is the coolest part of your job? 

One of the coolest is checking a patient’s embryos on Day 5 and finding a lot of good-quality embryos. Seeing a beautiful high-quality blastocyst never gets old. It’s confirmation that our system is good, things were done right and the patient will have a great chance at pregnancy. Also, working with testicular aspirations or extremely poor quality sperm can be both difficult and very satisfying knowing how crucial what you’re doing is to help the patient achieve their dream of having a family. Another cool thing is seeing the pictures of our patient’s children. It’s always mind-blowing to me that I carried them in a catheter just a few months before! It really is a blessing to be able to help people.

Thank you Mike! and all of our wonderful embryologists at IVF Michigan & Ohio Fertility Centers

A special thank you to our lab director, Sule Dogan PhD HCLD/ CC (ABB).