Since the birth of the first in vitro fertilization (IVF) or ‘test tube’ baby in 1978, the field of IVF has been transformed with technological discoveries that have led to a remarkable expansion of treatable conditions, as well as an outstanding increase in enabling couples to conceive. The embryology laboratory, where embryos are produced, nourished and grown during an IVF cycle, is one of the major components of a fertility center. While most patients don’t necessarily know what happens behind the scenes during an IVF cycle or how their embryos are produced, utilizing a state-of-the-art embryology lab is what separates an average fertility center from an excellent one.
The IVF facility at Fertility Specialists of Texas is one of the most advanced laboratories in North Texas and the Southwestern United States. It includes incubators capable of producing a reduced oxygen environment for culturing healthy, viable embryos to the blastocyst stage on days 5 and 6 of in vitro development, as well as the latest in micromanipulation and laser equipment for precise and fast microsurgical procedures, such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), assisted hatching and preimplantation genetic screening (PGS).
Advanced Particle and Chemical Air Filtration System
The environment where embryos are grown is of supreme importance. It has been documented that the air of the laboratory itself can alter the quality of the embryos produced. Embryos are very sensitive to particles, microbes and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) in the air. “Let’s think about it,” says Carlos A. Guerrero, Ph.D., the Laboratory Director at Fertility Specialists of Texas. “Embryos don’t have a defense system like a human organism. Humans have organs such as a liver, kidneys and lungs to filter and detoxify the body of harmful chemicals that we come in contact with. Also, our immune system will attack anything that gets into our body and remove it.”
Fertility Specialists of Texas has one of the most advanced HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) systems (designed by AlphaEnvironmental, Inc., a leader in air quality systems) in the area to overcome this problem. The HVAC system supplies constant temperature and controlled humidity regardless of climate and seasonal variation. This provides a stable environment in order to attain the maximum performance of all the precise laboratory equipment. The filtration system contains pre-filters to remove larger particles in the air, HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters that remove >99.9% of dust particles and microbes >0.3 um in size (300 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) and chemical filters containing activated carbon and potassium permanganate for the removal of toxic substances and harmful VOC’s.
Clean Room Laboratory Isolation
The laboratory at Fertility Specialists of Texas is isolated from the outside environment by tightly sealed ceilings, walls, light fixtures, utility connections and airtight doors making it ‘impermeable’ to contaminant agents, airborne toxins and microbes from leaking into the room. The embryology lab is held pressurized above the adjacent procedure rooms so that air moves from the embryology lab to the procedure room and out. This prevents any contaminant or toxin in the air from coming into the lab through the doors. The system is also set up so that if the FST lab encounters serious air pollution, such as from an outside fire, heavy highway construction or a chemical spill, the embryology team can switch to a ‘submarine mode’ and can recirculate the air inside the laboratory instead of using outside air.
This complex system was designed to imitate the defense and detoxification mechanism imposed by the mother during the growth of the embryos inside her body. Laboratories that are poorly designed can lead to decreased pregnancy rates due to embryo-toxic materials in the air. Failure to isolate the sensitive and delicate embryo from these materials can lead to increased stress on the developing embryo resulting in decreased pregnancy rates. Our focus on having one of the most advanced facilities in North Texas is demonstrated by our highly successful IVF program and pregnancy rates.