I’ve decided to write my first blog entry about Comprehensive Chromosomal Screening (CCS) because this area of infertility medicine may be the one that currently excites me the most. What we are doing with CCS now is truly remarkable. Women and couples, that have for so long suffered with miscarriages, failed IVF cycles and prolonged infertility, are now having successful pregnancies.
Even though a great deal has been written about CCS, the emails I get on this topic tell me there’s still much confusion about it. People often don’t understand the nature of the CCS process or know which fertility clinics can realize the full potential of the science behind CCS.
As its name implies, CCS offers complete screening of all 23 pairs of embryonic chromosomes to ensure they are all present. Since an overwhelming percent of failed IVF cycles and miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities, the CCS process allows us to dramatically improve pregnancy rates. This is especially true for women between the ages of 38 and 42.
Like just about everything else in my field of medicine, CCS is not a standalone technology. The CCS process relies on performing a biopsy on the growing embryo. It is possible to perform CCS on Day Three embryonic cells (blastomeres). However, we do not believe that this is the correct point for biopsy. From our ongoing results we believe that performing a Day Five trophectoderm biopsy is less invasive on the growing embryo and is more reflective of the future embryo’s chromosome constitution.
At CCRM we have pioneered a way to grow embryos to Day Five so they can reach the blastocyst stage. At this point several cells can be removed from the trophectoderm (cells of the future placenta) without injuring the inner cell mass (cells of the future fetus).
After biopsy, the embryo is cryopreserved (frozen) with an improved method called vitrification that has yielded a 96% survival rate per embryo in our laboratory. Embryos that have 23 pairs of chromosomes are made available for transfer. My practice’s CCS process, developed in partnership with Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, has been validated through an independent non-selection study. Currently, no other CCS process can make this claim.
I have to pause here to say that I know all this science talk about getting pregnant can miss the point. At the end of the day it all comes down to helping women and couples get past the infertility hurdles that are keeping them from having a family. While I really like the amazing science behind my work, I love helping people who want to become parents, become parents. To date, CCRM has welcomed 250 healthy CCS babies and have many more ongoing pregnancies. CCS is also offered at Houston IVF whose patients have been experiencing the same success.
William B. Schoolcraft, M.D.