IN3 - Intelligent In Vitro Incubator
Infertility has dramatically increased during the last decades and currently about 20% of couples struggle with infertility at any given time, making in vitro fertilization (IVF) their only option to conceive. IVF techniques require numerous interventions by the biologist, including direct manipulation of gametes, zygotes and embryos, as well as their regular observation to monitor morphology and development throughout the culture period. During the extracorporeal phase of IVF, gametes and embryos are stored in incubators, where the optimal conditions of temperature, CO2 concentration and humidity are maintained. The stability of these conditions is crucial in determining oocyte growth and embryo viability, and repeated exposure to external environment may have severe negative effects on further development. The main goal of the IN3 project is to reengineer the IVF process in the following directions: 1) To develop an incubator equipped with an internal microscope 2) To design and organize a multimedia database to store and intelligently retrieve physiological parameters 3) To implement and validate an automatic classification systems to evaluate embryos 4) To implement a decision support system that could assist the biologist in correlating the parameters collected during the culture period with implantation 5) To develop a manipulator inside the incubator. IN3 is an innovative project aimed at minimizing gamete/zygote/embryo exposure to external conditions. In this way, the biologist?s workload is notably reduced, while embryo viability is greatly preserved. In addition, the risk of human errors is minimized making unnecessary to resort to double check points, currently performed by two biologists, at those critical steps that are more prone to gamete/zygote/embryo mix up. Finally a significant increase of IVF efficiency is expected as, by introducing an automatic classification of ocytes/zygotes/embryos in correlation to their implantation potential, IN3 permits to customize the appropriate culture conditions for each embryo depending on its metabolic requirements. The current success rate in IVF is around 20%-25% and the IN3 project creates the working conditions to increase this figure in the next future within a framework of quality and safety, which are mandatory conditions for all units performing assisted reproduction.