Fluorescent-coated optical fiber sensor could monitor IVF noninvasively

Monitoring early-stage embryos during in vitro fertilization has been simplified with a fluorescent-coated, optical fiber-driven sensor.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2016 01 Ivf Web

Recognizing that monitoring early-stage embryos during in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a complicated process, a team of researchers at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) and the University of Adelaide has developed a fiber-optic sensor that can measure hydrogen peroxide and pH (acidity-alkalinity concentrations) in solution in a simpler manner and noninvasively. The sensor consists of a single optical fiber, the tip of which has been functionalized with a reactive fluorescent coating.

Related: Sterilization for success: Applying optical fiber in biomedicine

Malcolm Purdey, a CNBP and University of Adelaide researcher and the lead author of the study, believes the sensor has the potential to be used across a broad range of biological applications, but that it is particularly well suited to the IVF industry. "Unregulated production of hydrogen peroxide by an embryo, as well as fluctuating levels of pH, can indicate embryonic stress, impacting embryo development," Purdey says. "Our state-of-the-art sensor is a single strand of optical fiber that is completely noninvasive. It could be placed right next to the embryo, causing no disruption to its development, monitoring critical stages of the IVF process."

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2016 01 Ivf Web
CNBP researcher Malcolm Purdey. (Image credit: CNBP)

Purdey notes that currently, a number of issues exist in monitoring the health of an embryo. "Current clinical examinations are solely visually based. Even recent prototype sensors would need multiple fibers, detectors, and light sources to be hooked up," he explains. "Our dual sensor has the potential to monitor multiple embryonic parameters objectively, with a single piece of technology. We'll be able to better understand the dynamic processes taking place at this, the very earliest stage of life."

According to Purdey, the sensor also has the potential for broader application as well. "Hydrogen peroxide is an indicator of cell stress and possible illness. In the future, our sensor could be used inside of the body to examine cells in the arteries to look for evidence of vascular disease. It could also be used to aid cancer detection, too."

Full details of the work appear in the journal Sensors; for more information, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s151229893.

Follow us on Twitter, 'like' us on Facebook, connect with us on Google+, and join our group on LinkedIn

More in Biomedicine