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Archive for the ‘embryologist role’ tag

Through the Eyes of an Embryologist

By Sharlene Gumbs, T.S.

November 12th, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Through the Eyes of an Embryologist

“When were you introduced to the word ‘embryologist’”?   This question was posed to me at a recent dinner meeting with my colleagues and other health care professionals.

At the time that I was asked, my mind was preoccupied with the triple chocolate mousse on the dessert menu. Thus, a very generic reply was given.  “School,” I said. On my way home that evening, the question popped in mind and I remembered that my introduction to the word “embryologist” began with a U.S.postage stamp.

In my junior year of college, I received an endearing letter from a fellow classmate. The letter was posted with a stamp of Ernest E. Just.  I knew little about the man on the postage except that he was African- American, a biologist, and worthy of a commemorative stamp.

After doing some library research, I discovered that E.E. Just, PhD was biologist in the early-mid 1900’s who studied the process of egg fertilization and embryo development in marine invertebrates.  Just is credited with being the first biologist or embryologist to observe and document a cortical change that sweeps over the egg at the point of sperm entry. This change or shift in egg cell membrane potential was defined by Just as the “wave of negativity” that prevents fertilization by more than one sperm (i.e., polyspermy).

Today, this wave is referred by scientists as the “fast block”.  Just was also the first to infer that the second block to polyspermy known as the “slow block” occurs as a result of the formation of a protective membrane around the fertilized egg.

In addition to being a pioneer in his field, Just was a humble and unassuming man who did not flinch at challenging the theories of leading biologists of his time. In one of the 70+ scientific papers published by Just, he criticized the theory of geneticist and noble laureate, T. H. Morgan.  Morgan, a former embryologist, theorized that genes on chromosomes within the nucleus controlled inheritance and embryo development.

Just, however, believed otherwise.  He was a traditional embryologist who postulated that the factors for inheritance were located in the egg cytoplasm and consequently the cytoplasm played a dominant role in embryo development.  Although Just’s cytoplasm- centered theory was ultimately erroneous, his explanation contained traces of truth.  Through scientific research, we know today that embryo development is a multi-faceted process that combines genetics, cytology, and embryology.

E. E. Just, PhD had a notable career in academia and in experimental embryology that spanned 50 years and two continents but he was not oblivious to the feelings of discomfort towards people of African diaspora.  Over the years, his tolerance for racial inequity in early 20th century America waned and he relocated to the Mediterranean.

InItaly, aside from room temperature vino rosso, Just discovered a relationship between blastomere adhesiveness in a cleavage embryo and embryo development.  Although his experiments were conducted on non-human subjects, a similar relationship can be observed when we, the clinical embryologists, assess IVF embryos.

With the onset of fascism in Italy, Just decided it was best to move his family to France.  It was in France that he completed his magnum opus The Biology of the Cell Surface, in which he writes “The cell is the biologist crucial unit of observation and the egg cell is the special domain of the embryologist”.

Sharlene Gumbs, T.S. (ABB)

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Any questions about embryology? Ask them right here.

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Infertility Podcast Series: Journey to the Crib: Chapter 21: Things You Should Know About Your Embryo Transfer

By David Kreiner MD

August 9th, 2012 at 4:57 pm


Welcome to the Journey to the Crib Podcast.  We will have a blog discussion each week with each chapter.  This podcast covers Chapter Twenty-One: Things You Should Know About Your Embryo Transfer. You, the listener, are invited to ask questions and make comments.  You can access the podcast here: 

Things You Should Know About  Your Embryo Transfer 

As many embryos as you transfer may implant.  There is also about a one per cent chance an embryo can spontaneously split resulting in identical twins.  For young patients with high quality embryos, the implantation rate is high enough that transfer of one embryo offers a 50% pregnancy rate or better and transfers of two a slightly higher pregnancy rate but a twin rate of 40%.  For this reason it is recommended that patients under 35 with a high quality embryo transfer one embryo to minimize their chance of having a higher risk multiple pregnancy. 

At Long Island IVF, we offer the Single Embryo Transfer (SET) Program to minimize the cost implications of freezing the excess embryos by eliminating the fee to cryopreserve and store these embryos for up to a year.  We also offer for SET participating patients, three frozen embryo transfers for the price of one. 

Embryos are typically transferred three to five days after retrieval. The longer duration allows the embryos to develop further giving embryologists an opportunity to judge better which embryos have the best pregnancy potential.  Otherwise, a day five transfer does not improve an embryo’s chance to implant.  Many embryos fail to develop further after the third day and therefore are not ideal for transfer on day five.  The embryologist will decide whether delaying transfer improves a woman’s pregnancy potential based on the number and grade of the embryos, the woman’s age, and her history. 

The embryo transfer procedure, which we studied in the late 1990′s and presented at the ASRM in 2000 includes first passing a thin very pliable tube (trial catheter) through the cervix under ultrasound guidance.  Occasionally, a suture has been placed in the cervix during retrieval so as to not cause any uterine contractions at the time of transfer.  This suture can then be used to manipulate the cervix to straighten the cervical canal for easier atraumatic passage of the trial catheter.  The inner part of the trial catheter is removed leaving the trial open at its distal end.  The embryologist loads the embryo/s in the transfer catheter which is fed through the trial catheter noting on ultrasound when the transfer catheter has reached the center of the uterine cavity.  The embryos contained in a microdroplet are then gently expressed with visualization of an air bubble usually adjacent to the microdroplet noted on the ultrasound.  The catheter is then examined by the embryologist to insure that the embryo/s did not stick to the wall of the catheter. If it does we repeat the procedure.

Results of our study of this transfer procedure, I called the two-step transfer method, showed shockingly higher implantation rates compared to transfers with different catheters, with a one-step approach, without ultrasound, and with a tenaculum at the time of transfer instead of the suture.  

In the 27 years I am performing IVF, this advance in the embryo transfer stands out as one of the top three most significant advances in IVF along with the radical improvement in media preparation and the ultrasound-guided transvaginal follicular aspiration. 

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Was this helpful in answering your questions about embryo transfers?

 Are you aware that Long Island IVF is giving away a free basic Micro-IVF cycle, valued at $3,900.00? Check out the contest here: 

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