The 'magical' IVF by CCTV technique that allowed this couple to watch on a monitor their baby's first moments as an embryo
Another 74 women are pregnant thanks to the Embryoscope used at a Manchester clinic
00:32 GMT, 21 April 2012
A couple who were told it would be ‘virtually impossible’ for them to conceive have had a baby with the help of a pioneering IVF technique – an incubator with built-in CCTV.
Gemma and Simon Potter spent four years trying for a child before tests revealed that surgery Mr Potter had as a child had left him with a very low sperm count.
The ‘heartbroken’ couple turned to IVF – and a revolutionary device called the Embryoscope, which increases the chances of pregnancy by up to 50 per cent.
First in line: Gemma and Simon Potter said the incubator may have helped them conceive on their first IVF cycle
The 100,000 machine, which looks like a microwave, mimics conditions in the womb to provide the perfect controlled environment for fertilisation.
The development of the embryos is monitored via CCTV, stopping the laboratory staff from having to remove them from the incubator to check on their progress, which can have a detrimental effect.
Mrs Potter, 27, said: ‘When the chance of having a family is ripped away from you, it is the worst thing imaginable.
‘We were heartbroken and felt such a failure. We had got married, bought our first house and now wanted a family.’
Fortunately, the couple’s first cycle of IVF in July, paid for by the NHS, was a success.
Their daughter Isabella arrived three weeks ago weighing 6lb 2oz – one of the first babies to be born as a result of the new technique.
Mrs Potter, a trainee teacher from Wigan, added: ‘We feel so privileged to be Isabella’s mum and dad.
Modern technology: Embryologist Natalie Bowman looks at the time-lapse video created by the Embryoscope
The odds were stacked against us and we really feared it would never happen.
'But amazingly it worked first time and we are sure this new machine helped. She beat the odds and is our little miracle.'
Mrs Potter and her husband, 33, a software engineer, had treatment at CARE in Manchester, which is the first fertility clinic in the UK to use the Embryoscope.
The machine, which was developed by Danish company Unisense and recently gained approval from the American Food and Drug Administration for clinical use in the U.S., has a built-in microscope and camera system to allow round-the-clock monitoring of the embryos.
Embryologist Samantha Duffy with baby Isabella: The Care clinic says the facility has boosted their pregnancy success rate by 44 per cent
Each one can be tracked until it is ready to be put into the mother’s womb, between three and five days after fertilisation.
Alison Campbell, head of embryology at CARE, said: 'Currently, assessment of embryos in IVF is limited to brief snapshot glimpses at defined time points, usually one per day involving removal from the incubator.
'With the Embryoscope, images are taken every few minutes and viewed as time-lapse video by the embryologists until the point of embryo transfer without removing them from incubation, usually three or five days later.
'The ability to study these images in a closed system allows us to select the most viable embryo for transfer into the patient, and exclude embryos that are not ideal for implantation.'
In Mr and Mrs Potter’s case, only two of the six embryos created were deemed suitable for implantation.
Research presented at the Association of Clinical Embryologists conference in Leeds earlier this year showed that the Embryoscope increases the chances of pregnancy by an average of 44 per cent compared with a standard incubator.