TTUHSC researchers receive patent for identifying viable embryos

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Samuel Prien, Ph.D., and Lindsay Penrose, Ph.D., from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Medicine. – via Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Texas Tech University Health Sciences said in a press release that the Texas Tech Office of Research Commercialization (ORC) filed an initial U.S. patent application in 2016, and was awarded a patent to protect a new method that identifies viable embryos.

TTUHSC said Samuel Prien, Ph.D., and Lindsay Penrose, Ph.D., from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the university have invented a new method that selects viable embryos based upon buoyance, an indirect measure of biochemical composition, without any direct sampling or risk to the embryo.

The university said the patent was awarded to Prien and Penrose on Nov. 8, 2021, and with that patent now issued, the ORC plans to license the commercial rights to use the technology to a business partner who will bring the technology to the marketplace.

“Our device is based upon a very simple concept of buoyancy,” Prien said. “The healthy embryo should have a certain kind of chemistry and so much fluid content, so if you put it in a buoyancy chamber, it should drop at a given rate. If it’s not healthy, it should either drop faster or slower.”

Currently, the selection of viable embryos is based on sight, said Prien, the embryologist looks at the outside appearance of the embryo and then selects those they judge to have the best chance for producing a pregnancy.

“It’s a decent marker for which embryos are healthy and which are not,” Prien said. “Everybody’s been looking for the last 20 years at having some other way of judging an embryo.”

According to Prien, the system he and Penrose are developing recovers 100% of the embryos and is 90-100% accurate in selecting viable embryos. The press release goes on to say that the system can also detect differences in growth potential at the earliest stages of development.

Penrose said one of the goals of this new technology is reducing the chances of multiple births, which is one of the characteristics of in vitro fertilization. Penrose also said she believes this system will improve the odds of a couple taking home a healthy baby.

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