Here at The Hewitt Fertility Centre, we are proud of our dedication to research and innovation - that is why we invest so much time and resource into discovering the very best in latest technology. We do this so that you, our patients, can have the best possible chance of turning your dreams of creating a family into a reality. This is how we do it:
1. State-of-the-Art Assisted Conception Laboratories
The laboratories at The Hewitt Fertility Centre were specifically designed and built around their function and need; making good use of the extensive expertise within the Embryology Team. This, together with our expert Embryology Team and Lab Clean-Room Specialists make our labs the envy of embryologists around the UK and further afield! Our labs provide the best and safest environment possible for eggs, sperm and embryos; making use of equipment of the highest quality and at the cutting edge of technology.
Embryos are routinely cultured for 2 – 5 days, depending on what is required, with embryo transfers taking place 7 days a week. Every single piece of our critical equipment is remotely and independently monitored 24 hours a day; with a member of the embryology team permanently ‘on call’, night and day – ready to respond, should the need arise.
The lab has been designed to provide a relaxed environment, allowing our embryology team plenty of room to work and move around safely when carrying gametes and embryos. As well as this, we have ultraviolet filters specially fitted to all lights; removing 99% of UV light, which may damage eggs and embryos.
The Hewitt Fertility Centre has invested significantly in several new technologies, aimed at optimising the patient’s chance of achieving pregnancy.
2. Electronic Witnessing (IVFWitness™ System)
Within an assisted conception laboratory, there is, quite clearly, nothing more important than ensuring that we match the right embryos with the right patient. Consequently, and in accordance with the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), we witness every single stage of the matching process.
The way in which this is achieved, is by asking a second member of staff to observe and witness each and every procedure taking place. We have also taken the required witnessing a step further; we have introduced the very latest technology to aid this crucial aspect of work, called ‘IVFWitness’. ‘IVFWitness’ is a system, which uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, where patients are given an ID card at the start of their treatment, not only with their details printed onto it, but also embedded electronically.
Similarly, every dish or tube used within the laboratory during treatment is labelled with a RFID tag – this ensures that the system only permits dishes and tubes belonging to that particular patient into the work area. Should the ‘wrong’ dish or tube become introduced, an alarm will sound – thus eliminating mistakes; making our labs as safe and efficient as possible.
3. Undisturbed Culture
Until quite recently, scientific staff had to use a microscope to examine embryos once a day, taking them out of their incubators to in order to study them.
However new technologies are now available at HFC which minimise the disturbances to the embryos’ environment and enables the best embryos to be selected for embryo transfer. Having this technology means the centre's experts can put the strongest embryos back into patients' wombs to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.
This technology is offered to all patients at no extra cost. Patients are also given videos of their embryo developments on a memory stick.
EmbryoScope® offers continuous surveillance of embryos in a safe, undisturbed and controlled environment, from which they do not have to be removed for examination. The system takes a photograph every 10 minutes of each embryo, providing up to 140 images per day. This creates continuous time-lapse ‘moving’ images which are then stored automatically within the patient file for review at any time during the embryo’s development.
Emerging research is suggesting that the vast amount of information collected by the EmbryoScope® is extremely useful in helping to identify those embryos with the highest implantation potential.
4. Laser-Assisted Hatching
When a human embryo gets to about day 6 of its development, it needs to hatch out of its surrounding ‘shell’ (the zona), so that it is then able to implant into the lining of the uterus. A failure of the embryo to hatch will render the embryo unable to implant. In order to overcome this hurdle for implantation, it is possible to use a laser attached to a microscope to create a small breach in the surrounding shell of the embryo. This breach is thought to then assist the embryo in hatching, thereby increasing the likelihood of implantation.
Evidence shows that Using laser-assisted hatching increases the chances or achieving a pregnancy for patients who are in their late 30s or over, who have had several failed IVF attempts or whose embryos have a unusually 'thickened' shell.
5. Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT) for aneuploidy
PGT (also known as aneuploidy screening), involves checking the chromosomes of embryos conceived by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) for common abnormalities. This practice avoids having abnormal embryos transferred to the womb during IVF or ICSI. Chromosomal abnormalities are a major cause of the failure of embryos to implant, leading to potential miscarriages and conditions such as Down’s syndrome.
We will be able to offer this to the following groups of patients:
- Patients over 35 who have a higher risk of having a baby with a chromosome problem
- Patients who have a family history of chromosome problems
- Patients who have a history of recurrent miscarriages
- Patients have had several unsuccessful cycles of IVF, where embryos have been transferred
- Couples, where the partner’s sperm is known to be at high risk of having chromosome problems
The PGT process involves the embryologist removing cells from the developing embryo for biopsy. Following this, the biopsied cells are transferred to the genetics laboratory (currently in Nottingham) where the geneticists use a technique called Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to test the cells for normality in all 23 chromosomes.
In the majority of cases it is possible to identify those embryos which are genetically normal and to select such an embryo(s) for transfer. Although this technique is relatively young, there is some evidence to suggest that PGT of embryos for aneuploidy may increase the chance of pregnancy in the patient groups listed above.
6. Preimplantation Genetic Testing for monogenic disease (PGT-M)
PGT for monogenic disease uses the same biopsy technique as described above, however the genetic tests used by the geneticists to test the embryo cells screen for both aneuploidy and also for other pre-known gene defects. This practice avoids having abnormal embryos transferred to the womb for those patients that already have a child, or suffer themselves, with a known genetic defect.
Each case of PGT-M requires permission from the HFEA to allow screening for the known genetic defect, and the parents (and possibly wider family) will need to be genetically tested by the genetics laboratory before the embryos are created, to confirm that they are able to screen for that particular defect.