Womb-on-a-chip may boost IVF successes
Can conception, the most intimate of human experiences, be automated?
Teruo Fujii of the University of Tokyo in Japan and his colleagues are building a microfluidic chip to nurture the first stages of pregnancy. They hope, eventually, to create a fully automated artificial uterus in which egg and sperm are fed in at one end and an early embryo comes out the other, ready for implanting in a real mother. They say using such a device could improve the success rate of IVF.
"While there have been many advances in the production of in vitro embryos, these embryos are still sub-optimal [compared] to their in vivo counterparts," says Matt Wheeler of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign who is also working on automated IVF systems. One reason for this is that during IVF, eggs or embryos are often moved or washed with culture fluid, causing changes in temperature and pH, he says.
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