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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Barcodes 'could prevent IVF mix ups'
Thousands of Britons have IVF treatment each year
Authorities in Europe and the US are considering whether to license a technology which manufacturers say would prevent IVF mix-ups.

The makers of Embryoguard claim their barcode technology would make it impossible for IVF clinics to mix-up eggs, sperm cells or embryos.

It follows reports earlier this week that a mix-up at one UK clinic led to black twins being born to a white couple.


Anything that helps you get the correct egg with the correct sperm and the correct embryo with the correct patient is welcome

Dr Anna Carby, London Fertility Centre
Technology company IMT said it hoped to receive approval for its product early next year after the completion of clinical trials.

Embryoguard gives each component in the IVF process - the prospective parents, the sperm, egg and embryo - a unique identification number.

Verification

It verifies that number throughout the process and ensures that procedures cannot take place unless the data matches.

The technology stops scientists from fertilising eggs or transferring embryos to the patient unless the identification barcode matches.

Dr Amir Arav of IMT said: "The two partners involved are recognised by a specified code and their sperm cells, eggs and fertilised embryos are also identified by the same ID.

"The system then ensures that sperm can only reach the eggs after it has confirmed that both cells belong to the right parents.

"Likewise, the grown embryos will be transferred to the patient only after the Embryoguard has successfully matched the embryo's ID with the parents ID."

The technology can also be used to monitor the progress the embryos through every stage of their development.

By placing microscopic CCTV cameras inside IVF incubators, doctors can check the progress of embryos throughout their development.

This, say the manufacturers, means that the embryos do not need to be removed from the incubator until necessary and the damages caused by changes in temperature and humidity can be avoided.

Positive step

Dr Anna Carby, who works at the London Fertility Centre, said the technology could help to prevent IVF mix-ups.

"Anything that helps you get the correct egg with the correct sperm and the correct embryo with the correct patient is welcome.

But she added: "From what I can see though, you are still relying on humans and this could mean that we are no further down the line in preventing misidentification."

See also:

08 Jul 02 | Health
08 Jul 02 | Health
01 Jul 02 | Health
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