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The Pro’s and Con’s of Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) : It Should be Used Selectively

by Dr. Geoffrey Sher on October 31, 2016

About a decade ago, I, along with my associate, Levent Keskintepe PhD were the first to introduce full chromosome Preimplantation Genetic Sampling/Screening (PGS) into the IVF clinical realm to try and identify euploid embryos whose cells contained the required 46 chromosomes (23 pairs) necessary to render them potentially “competent” to propagate viable pregnancies. Aneuploid embryos (those that have more or less than a total of 46 chromosomes) are by and large considered to be “incompetent”, far less likely to propagate a viable pregnancy and thus largely unworthy of being transferred to the uterus.

Initially the primary method used for PGS was, comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). The methodology was not without certain problems. A few years ago, new and improved technology known as next generation gene sequencing (NGS) emerged. This has since all but replaced other methodologies. Gene sequencing determines the precise order of nucleotides within a DNA molecule. It includes any method or technology that is used to determine the order of the four bases—adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine—in a strand of DNA.

The widely held belief is that the ideal time to biopsy embryos for PGS is when they reach the most advanced stage of preimplantation development (the blastocyst stage) by 5-6 days post-fertilization. At this point several cells are microsurgically removed from the embryo’s outer cellular layer (trophectoderm-TE), processed and subjected to PGS analysis. The blastocysts are ultra-rapidly frozen (vitrified) and held for future dispensation in a subsequent frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle, once test results are known.

Access to several cells through TE biopsy provides more DNA for reliable analysis that can be attained through the testing of a single cell removed from a day-2-3 cleaved embryo. It is this plus the belief that the hypercellular blastocyst is far less likely to be damaged through such microsurgical intervention than would be the case with a 4-10 cell, day-3 cleaved embryo that has led to the preferred timing for biopsy to be on day 5-6 blastocysts..

When PGS testing was first introduced, initial results were most-encouraging. Embryo implantation rates of >50% and birth rates of 50-60% when up to two euploid blastocysts were transferred, were being reported. In addition, the reported incidence of miscarriages and chromosomal birth defects was likewise greatly reduced. In fact, we were so encouraged that most of us predicted that a time would come where full embryo karyotyping through PGS would become a routine part of IVF. But alas, we were soon to be disappointed when following the widespread introduction of PGS testing success rates started dropping. This was especially the case when PGS was performed on embryos derived from the eggs of older women and women with severely diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). With further investigation it began to dawn upon us that:

  1. Chromosomal numerical integrity, while being the most important determinant of embryo “competency” was likely not the only factor that impacted embryo “competency”. Indeed advancing age was revealed to increase the incidence of embryo aneuploidy, independent of embryo karyotype and this is probably linked to non-chromosomal, genetic and metabolomic factors that might also be age-related.
  2. Independent of embryo competency, there are many variables, that can and also do determine IVF outcome and these are often outside the control of the embryology/genetic laboratory. They include selection and implementation of individualized protocols for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS), endometrial factors that determine embryo implantation (e.g. anatomical an immunologic implantation dysfunction), technical skill of the physician performing embryo transfer etc.
  3. Not all PGS-aneuploid embryos are “incompetent”. Some are mosaic (see elsewhere) and these are often capable of “autocorrecting” upon being transferred to the uterus, and propagating healthy babies.

Example A: Under optimal conditions embryo “competency” is determined by age and the protocol used for COS. In women <36Y of age roughly 1:2 blastocysts will likely be euploid “competent” and were such an embryo be gently and expertly transferred to a “receptive” uterine environment, the chance of a viable pregnancy should about 55-60%. This means that when ET is performed in such ideal IVF candidates, the chance of it resulting in a live birth should be about 27%-30% per embryo.

Example B: Conversely, when it comes to a woman in her mid-forties, the chance of an embryo being “competent” is probably < 1:8-10. And, the age-adjusted chance of such a Euploid embryo propagating a live birth is (for reasons cited above) theoretically well below 60% (perhaps around 40%-45%). This extrapolates to a baby rate of no more than 4%-5% per blastocyst transferred.

Using the above examples:

In Example A: Given that about 50% of the eggs (and thus resulting embryos) of young women are euploid and competent, the transfer up to 2 non-PGS tested blastocysts would likely yield the same results as would the transfer of a single PGS-tested euploid blastocyst. It follows that a patient/couple who are capable and willing to engage a twin pregnancy (which would occur in roughly 25% of such cases), might get as good a result by simply transferring two (2) untested blastocysts and in the process avoid the additional cost of PGS.

In Example B: Conversely, the chance of a viable pregnancy in a woman in her mid-40’s would likely be 8-10 times greater when a “competent”, PGS-euploid blastocyst is selectively transferred as compared to when a non-PGS tested blastocyst is transferred to the uterus (4% versus 40%). Albeit that PGS-testing of blastocysts derived from fertilization of an older woman’s eggs is less reliable than for younger counterparts, there would be a distinct benefit/advantage in pre-selecting euploid, “competent” blastocysts for transfer in such cases. Since older women often also have DOR and thus produce fewer eggs/embryos, such women should benefit inordinately from the selective “stockpiling” (banking) of PGS-biopsied blastocysts (vitrification) over several cycles of IVF for collective PGS testing and the subsequent selective transfer of only the most “competent” ones to the uterus with FET.

In conclusion, it is my considered opinion that PGS-embryo selection only be considered in the following circumstances:

  1. Women over the age of 39Y and those who, regardless of age have significant DOR, are running out of eggs and time, and need to “make hay while the sun shines”!
  2. Unexplained IVF failure.
  3. Certain cases of recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
  4. Family gender balancing cases
  5. Women who have alloimmune implantation dysfunction (IID) with activation of uterine natural killer cells (NKa)
  6. Where karyotyping reveals one or other partner to have a balanced chromosomal translocation
  7. Known or anticipated specific genetic abnormalities

When selectively used PGS is an excellent tool to improve implantation potential and IVF outcome (see above). While PGS provides a new and unique method for selecting the ideal embryos to be transferred, it is not a panacea when it comes to identifying “competent embryos”. There are factors other than numerical chromosomal integrity (karyotype) that can and do influence embryo “competency”, profoundly. PGS embryo selection is in my opinion currently over-used. This is especially the case when it comes to younger women with normal ovarian reserve. Unless the dust is allowed to settle such that this remarkable technology is properly applied, it is my belief that it stands the risk of progressively falling into disrepute.

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  • Tamara Jaradat - August 16, 2017 reply

    Dear Dr. Sher, you state that COS is one factor that could affect PGS; “…They include selection and implementation of individualized protocols for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS)”. How does the protocol ultimately affect the suitability of PGS?

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - August 16, 2017 reply

    I think you misinterpreted my statements or perhaps I was not clear enough. PGS involves embryo chromosomal testing. COS does not affect PGS directly. However, it influences egg development which in turn, in my opinion, can profoundly influences egg chromosomal competency.

    Geoff Sher

    Geoff Sher

  • Dana - January 25, 2017 reply

    Hi Dr. Sher, My husband (33) and I (35) have been trying for a baby (my first his second) for the last 15 months. We knew we would have some difficulty given that I have endometriosis. We were able to get pregnant 4 times, unfortunately, all were lost. The first two where chemical pregnancies back to back. After many tests my RE found that I had a small uterine septum and she repaired it. The third pregnancy failed at 7 weeks just days after seeing the heartbeat. We were able to send the tissue off to be tested for genetic or chromosome issues and it came back as normal. Our fourth pregnancy was an ectopic that landed me in surgery and they removed my right tube. We are now going the route of IVF. My RE has given us the option of PGS testing but we still have our reservations about it. It is very costly and it still does not guarantee anything. I am wondering what your opinions on PGS testing are for someone in my situation. I should note that my AMH is 4.24 and my cd3 ultrasound showed 20+ follicles.

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - January 25, 2017 reply

    More than half of women who have endometriosis harbor antiphospholipid antibodies (APA) that can compromise development of the embryo’s root system (trophoblast). In addition and far more serious, is the fact that in about one third of cases endometriosis, regardless of its severity is associated with NKa and cytotoxic uterine lymphocytes (CTL) which can seriously jeopardize implantation. This immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) is diagnosed by testing the woman’s blood for APA, for NKa (using the K-562 target cell test or by endometrial biopsy for cytokine activity) and, for CTL (by a blood immunophenotype). Activated NK cells attack the invading trophoblast cells (developing “root system” of the embryo/early conceptus) as soon as it tries to gain attachment to the uterine wall. In most cases, this results in rejection of the embryo even before the pregnancy is diagnosed and sometimes, in a chemical pregnancy or an early miscarriage. As such, many women with endometriosis, rather than being infertile, in the strict sense of the word, often actually experience repeated undetected “mini-miscarriages”.
    Women who harbor APA’s often experience improved IVF birth rates when heparinoids (Clexane/Lovenox) are administered from the onset of ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins until the 10th week of pregnancy. NKa is treated with a combination of Intralipid (IL) and steroid therapy: Intralipid (IL) is a solution of small lipid droplets suspended in water. When administered intravenously, IL provides essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid.IL is made up of 20% soybean oil/fatty acids (comprising linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, linolenic acid and stearic acid) , 1.2% egg yolk phospholipids (1.2%), glycerin (2.25%) and water (76.5%).IL exerts a modulating effect on certain immune cellular mechanisms largely by down-regulating NKa.
    The therapeutic effect of IL/steroid therapy is likely due to an ability to suppress pro-inflammatory cellular (Type-1) cytokines such as interferon gamma and TNF-alpha. IL/steroids down-regulates NKa within 2-3 weeks of treatment the vast majority of women experiencing immunologic implantation dysfunction. In this regard IL is just as effective as Intravenous Gamma globulin (IVIg) but at a fraction of the cost and with a far lower incidence of side-effects. Its effect lasts for 4-9 weeks when administered in early pregnancy.
    The toxic pelvic environment caused by endometriosis, profoundly reduces natural fertilization potential. As a result normally ovulating infertile women with endometriosis and patent Fallopian tubes are much less likely to conceive naturally, or by using fertility agents alone (with or without intrauterine (IUI) insemination. The only effective way to bypass this adverse pelvic environment is through IVF. I am not suggesting here that all women who have endometriosis require IVF! Rather, I am saying that in cases where the condition is further compromised by an IID associated with NKa and/or for older women(over 35y) who have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where time is of the essence, it is my opinion that IVF is the treatment of choice.

    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
    • Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • Endometriosis and Infertily
    • Endometriosis and Infertility: Why IVF Rather than IUI or Surgery Should be the Treatment of Choice.
    • Endometriosis and Infertility: The Influence of Age and Severity on Treatment Options
    • Treating Ovarian Endometriomas with Sclerotherapy.
    . The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care in IVF
    • IVF: How Many Attempts should be considered before Stopping?
    • “Unexplained” Infertility: Often a matter of the Diagnosis Being Overlooked!
    • IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
    • The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
    • Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
    • Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
    • Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
    • Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
    • Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
    • Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
    • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

  • Lulu - December 3, 2016 reply

    Hi Dr Sher, I would love to hear your views on mitochondrial issues with embryos connected to endometriosis. I have been reading some very interesting info on this topic as I’ve never heard of it before! I was wondering could this be our reason for 3 failed cycles with PGS tested embryos. Could we have this issue even though we have almost 100% fertilisation rate, perfectly developed PGS normal embryos? Also if there is mitochondria issues, is it similar to PGS abnormal embryos whereby some are abnormal and some are ok or does it mean every embryo from that cycle would have mitochondria issues? I have cysts on my ovaries which my RE thinks could be endometriosis so I am due to have a laparoscopy next week however, these cysts weren’t there when I was undergoing the fresh cycles. I have read that mitochondria issues are also related to age (I am 35) obesity and PCOS which none of this applies to me. I would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you 🙂

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - December 3, 2016 reply

    I would NOT focus on mitochondrial issues. This is unlikely and besides, they are difficult to identify or great except through possible prophylaxis, using human growth hormone supplementation with stimulation.

    Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when the uterine lining (endometrium) grows not only in the interior of the uterus but in other areas, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries and the bowel. Endometriosis is a complex condition where, the lack or relative absence of an overt anatomical barrier to fertility often belies the true extent of reproductive problem(s).
    All too often the view is expounded that the severity of endometriosis-related infertility is inevitably directly proportionate to the anatomical severity of the disease itself, thereby implying that endometriosis causes infertility primarily by virtue of creating anatomical barriers to fertilization. This over-simplistic and erroneous view is often used to support the performance of many unnecessary surgeries for the removal of small innocuous endometriotic lesions, on the basis of such “treatment” evoking an improvement in subsequent fertility.
    It is indisputable that even the mildest form of endometriosis can compromise fertility. It is equally true that, mild to moderate endometriosis is by no means a cause of absolute “sterility”.
    Rather, when compared with normally ovulating women of a similar age who do not have endometriosis, women with mild to moderate endometriosis are about four to six times less likely to have a successful pregnancy.
    Endometriosis often goes unnoticed for many years. Such patients are frequently, erroneously labeled as having “unexplained infertility”, until the diagnosis is finally clinched through direct visualization of the lesions at the time of laparoscopy or laparoscopy. Not surprisingly, many patients with so called “unexplained” infertility, if followed for a number of years, will ultimately reveal endometriosis.

    Women who have endometriosis are much more likely to be infertile. There are several reasons for this:

    • First-Ovulation Dysfunction: In about 25 – 30% of cases, endometriosis is associated with ovulation dysfunction. Treatment requires controlled ovarian stimulation (COS). The problem is that the toxic pelvic environment markedly reduces the likelihood that anything other than IVF will enhance pregnancy potential.
    • Second- Toxic Pelvic environment that compromises Fertilization Endometriosis is associated with the presence of toxins in peritoneal secretions while it is tempting to assert that normally ovulating women with mild to moderate endometriosis would have no difficulty in conceiving if their anatomical disease is addressed surgically or that endometriosis-related infertility is confined to cases with more severe anatomical disease…nothing could be further from the truth. The natural conception rate for healthy ovulating women in their early 30’s (who are free of endometriosis) is about 15% per month of trying and 70% per year of actively attempting to conceive. Conversely, the conception rate for women of a comparable age who have mild or moderate pelvic endometriosis (absent or limited anatomical disease) is about 5-6% per month and 40% after 3 years of trying. As sperm and egg(s) travel towards the fallopian tubes they are exposed to these toxins which compromise the fertilization process. In fact it has been estimated that there is a 5-6 fold reduction in fertilization potential because of these toxins which cannot be eradicated. Frankly, it really does not matter whether an attempt is made to remove endometriosis deposits surgically as this will not improve pregnancy potential. The reason is that for every deposit observed, there are numerous others that are in the process of developing and are not visible to the naked eye and whether visible or not, such translucent deposits still produce toxins. This also explains why surgery to remove visible endometriosis deposits, controlled ovarian stimulation with or without intrauterine insemination will usually not improve pregnancy potential. Only IVF, through removing eggs before they are exposed to the toxic pelvic environment, fertilizing them in-vitro and then transferring the embryos to the uterus represents the only way to enhance pregnancy potential.
    • Third-Pelvic adhesions and Scarring: In its most severe form, endometriosis is associated with scarring and adhesions in the pelvis, resulting in damage to, obstruction or fixation of the fallopian tubes to surrounding structures, thereby preventing the union of sperm and eggs.
    • Fourth-Ovarian Endometriomas, Advanced endometriosis is often associated with ovarian cysts (endometriomas/chocolate cysts) that are filled with altered blood and can be large and multiple. When these are sizable (>1cm) they can activate surrounding ovarian connective tissue causing production of excessive male hormones (androgens) such as testosterone and androstenedione. Excessive ovarian androgens can compromise egg development in the affected ovary (ies) resulting in an increased likelihood of numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy) and reduced egg/embryo competency”. In my opinion large ovarian endometriomas need to be removed surgically or rough sclerotherapy before embarking on IVF.
    • Fifth- Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID). Endometriosis, regardless of its severity is associated with immunologic implantation dysfunction linked to activation of uterine natural killer cells (NKa) and cytotoxic uterine lymphocytes (CTL) in about 30 of cases. This is diagnosed by testing the woman’s blood for NKa using the K-562 target cell test or by endometrial biopsy for cytokine analysis, and, for CTL by doing a blood immunophenotype. These NKa attack the invading trophoblast cells (developing “root system” of the embryo/early conceptus) as soon as it tries to gain attachment to the uterine wall. In most cases, this results in death of the embryo even before the pregnancy is diagnosed and sometimes, in a chemical pregnancy or even an early miscarriage. . As such, many women with endometriosis, rather than being infertile, in the strict sense of the word, often actually experience repeated undetected “mini-miscarriages”.

    Advanced Endometriosis: In its most advanced stage, anatomical disfiguration is causally linked to the infertility. In such cases, inspection at laparoscopy or laparoscopy will usually reveal severe pelvic adhesions, scarring and “chocolate cysts”. However, the quality of life of patients with advanced endometriosis is usually so severely compromised by pain and discomfort, that having a baby is often low on the priority list. Accordingly, such patients are usually often more interested in relatively radical medical and surgical treatment options (might preclude a subsequent pregnancy), such as removal of ovaries, fallopian pubis and even the uterus, as a means of alleviating suffering.

    Moderately Severe Endometriosis. These patients have a modest amount of scarring/ adhesions and endometriotic deposits which are usually detected on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder surface and low in the pelvis, behind the uterus. In such cases, the fallopian tubes are usually opened and functional.

    Mild Endometriosis: These patients who at laparoscopy or laparotomy are found to have no significant distortion of pelvic anatomy are often erroneously labeled as having “unexplained” infertility. To hold that the there can only infertility can only be attributed to endometriosis if significant anatomical disease can be identified, is to ignore the fact that, biochemical, hormonal and immunological factors profoundly impact fertility. Failure to recognize this salient fact continues to play havoc with the hopes and dreams of many infertile endometriosis patients.

    TREATMENT:
    The following basic concepts apply to management of endometriosis-related infertility:

    1. Controlled Ovulation stimulation (COS) with/without intrauterine insemination (IUI): Toxins in the peritoneal secretions of women with endometriosis exert a negative effect on fertilization potential regardless of how sperm reaches the fallopian tubes. This helps explain why COS with or without IUI will usually not improve the chances of pregnancy (over no treatment at all) in women with endometriosis. IVF is the only way by which to bypass this problem.
    2. Laparoscopy or Laparotomy Surgery aimed at restoring the anatomical integrity of the fallopian tubes does not counter the negative influence of toxic peritoneal factors that inherently reduce the chances of conception in women with endometriosis four to six fold. Nor does it address the immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) commonly associated with this condition. Pelvic surgery is relatively contraindicated for the treatment of infertility associated with endometriosis, when the woman is more than 35 years of age. With the pre-menopause approaching, such women do not have the time to waste on such less efficacious alternatives. In contrast, younger women who have time on their side might consider surgery as a viable option. Approximately 30 -40 percent of women under 35 years of age with endometriosis will conceive with in two to three years following corrective pelvic surgery.
    3. Sclerotherapy for ovarian endometriomas (“chocolate” cysts). About 15 years ago I introduced “sclerotherapy”, a relatively non-invasive, safe and effective outpatient method to permanently eliminate endometriomas without surgery being required. Sclerotherapy for ovarian endometriomas involves needle aspiration of the liquid content of the endometriotic cyst, followed by the injection of 5% tetracycline into the cyst cavity. Treatment results in disappearance of the lesion within 6-8 weeks, in more than 75% of cases so treated. Ovarian sclerotherapy can be performed under local anesthesia or under general anesthesia. It has the advantage of being an ambulatory office- based procedure, at low cost, with a low incidence of significant post-procedural pain or complications and the avoidance of the need for laparoscopy or laparotomy
    4. The role of selective immunotherapy More than half of women who have endometriosis harbor antiphospholipid antibodies (APA) that can compromise development of the embryo’s root system (trophoblast). In addition and far more serious, is the fact that in about one third of cases endometriosis, regardless of its severity is associated with NKa and cytotoxic uterine lymphocytes (CTL) which can seriously jeopardize implantation. This immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) is diagnosed by testing the woman’s blood for APA, for NKa (using the K-562 target cell test or by endometrial biopsy for cytokine activity) and, for CTL (by a blood immunophenotype). Activated NK cells attack the invading trophoblast cells (developing “root system” of the embryo/early conceptus) as soon as it tries to gain attachment to the uterine wall. In most cases, this results in rejection of the embryo even before the pregnancy is diagnosed and sometimes, in a chemical pregnancy or an early miscarriage. . As such, many women with endometriosis, rather than being infertile, in the strict sense of the word, often actually experience repeated undetected “mini-miscarriages”.

    Women who harbor APA’s often experience improved IVF birth rates when heparinoids (Clexane/Lovenox) are administered from the onset of ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins until the 10th week of pregnancy. NKa is treated with a combination of Intralipid (IL) and steroid therapy: Intralipid (IL) is a solution of small lipid droplets suspended in water. When administered intravenously, IL provides essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid.IL is made up of 20% soybean oil/fatty acids (comprising linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, linolenic acid and stearic acid) , 1.2% egg yolk phospholipids (1.2%), glycerin (2.25%) and water (76.5%).IL exerts a modulating effect on certain immune cellular mechanisms largely by down-regulating NKa.

    The therapeutic effect of IL/steroid therapy is likely due to an ability to suppress pro-inflammatory cellular (Type-1) cytokines such as interferon gamma and TNF-alpha. IL/steroids down-regulates NKa within 2-3 weeks of treatment the vast majority of women experiencing immunologic implantation dysfunction. In this regard IL is just as effective as Intravenous Gamma globulin (IVIg) but at a fraction of the cost and with a far lower incidence of side-effects. Its effect lasts for 4-9 weeks when administered in early pregnancy.
    5. The role of IVF: The toxic pelvic environment caused by endometriosis, profoundly reduces natural fertilization potential. As a result normally ovulating infertile women with endometriosis and patent Fallopian tubes are much less likely to conceive naturally, or by using fertility agents alone (with or without intrauterine (IUI) insemination. The only effective way to bypass this adverse pelvic environment is through IVF. I am not suggesting here that all women who have endometriosis require IVF! Rather, I am saying that in cases where the condition is further compromised by an IID associated with NKa and/or for older women(over 35y) who have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where time is of the essence, it is my opinion that IVF is the treatment of choice.

    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
    • Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care in IVF
    • Why did my IVF Fail
    • Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
    • PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
    • PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
    • IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
    • The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
    • Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
    • Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
    • Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
    • Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
    • Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
    • Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
    • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF
    • Endometriosis and Infertily
    • Endometriosis and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) and IVF
    • Endometriosis and Infertility: Why IVF Rather than IUI or Surgery Should be the Treatment of Choice.
    • Endometriosis and Infertility: The Influence of Age and Severity on Treatment Options
    • Treating Ovarian Endometriomas with Sclerotherapy.

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Lulu - December 3, 2016 reply

    Thank you for your reply Dr. Sher! In all the years I am going through IVF I have never hear of these issues before! Out of interest, if there was some mitochondria issues with our embryos would this be common for all embryos to be affected or would it be more likely for just one or two per cycle? I’ve read it will cause implantation failure which is what we are dealing with. We don’t have an immune issue as I have done all the big immune tests and everything is clear so we are ‘unexplained’ this is why it has been suggested we may be dealing with mitochondria issues. 🙁

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - December 4, 2016 reply

    Very few labs can do the required immune tests properly. Also the tests needed are specific to the problem I think we should talk.

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Lulu - December 7, 2016

    Hi again Dr. Sher! I had the complete immune work up done with the Rosalind Lab in America covering every possible immune test and everything was clear so I know for sure I am not dealing with any immune issues. I have a normal endometrial lining. The only issue I have is most likely endometriosis of the ovaries (waiting on a lap to confirm) so therefore my clinic are suggesting I may be dealing with a mitochondria issue even though the embryos are PGS normal. What I can’t understand is, all of our embryos develop perfectly with almost 100% fertilization rate, I have normal FSH/LH/AMH for my age, I am not overweight etc. We have 6 frozen embryos and now this has me very worried that those embryos may be affected and we have no way of knowing. In all you experience, have you ever come across this issue? It has been suggested to have another fresh round of IVF straight after the surgery to remove the endo but I find this difficult to understand when we have 6 ‘perfect’ looking blasts which we do not know for sure have a mitochondria issue! I feel very anxious about the whole situation 🙁

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - December 7, 2016

    I would very much like to review thye results of the immune tests done, because given your history an immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) as being responsible still tops my list of causes. Until I can review those results myself, I am not ready to accede.

    Whenever a patient fails to achieve a viable pregnancy following embryo transfer (ET), the first question asked is why! Was it simply due to, bad luck?, How likely is the failure to recur in future attempts and what can be done differently, to avoid it happening next time?.
    It is an indisputable fact that any IVF procedure is at least as likely to fail as it is to succeed. Thus when it comes to outcome, luck is an undeniable factor. Notwithstanding, it is incumbent upon the treating physician to carefully consider and address the causes of IVF failure before proceeding to another attempt:
    1. Age: The chance of a woman under 35Y of age having a baby per embryo transfer is about 35-40%. From there it declines progressively to under 5% by the time she reaches her mid-forties. This is largely due to declining chromosomal integrity of the eggs with advancing age…”a wear and tear effect” on eggs that are in the ovaries from birth.
    2. Embryo Quality/”competency (capable of propagating a viable pregnancy)”. As stated, the woman’s age plays a big role in determining egg/embryo quality/”competency”. This having been said, aside from age the protocol used for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) is the next most important factor. It is especially important when it comes to older women, and women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where it becomes essential to be aggressive, and to customize and individualize the ovarian stimulation protocol.
    We used to believe that the uterine environment is more beneficial to embryo development than is the incubator/petri dish and that accordingly, the earlier on in development that embryos are transferred to the uterus, the better. To achieve this goal, we used to select embryos for transfer based upon their day two or microscopic appearance (“grade”). But we have since learned that the further an embryo has advanced in its development, the more likely it is to be “competent” and that embryos failing to reach the expanded blastocyst stage within 5-6 days of being fertilized are almost invariably “incompetent” and are unworthy of being transferred. Moreover, the introduction into clinical practice about a decade ago, (by Levent Keskintepe PhD and myself) of Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS), which assesses for the presence of all the embryos chromosomes (complete chromosomal karyotyping), provides another tool by which to select the most “competent” embryos for transfer. This methodology has selective benefit when it comes to older women, women with DOR, cases of unexplained repeated IVF failure and women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
    3. The number of the embryos transferred: Most patients believe that the more embryos transferred the greater the chance of success. To some extent this might be true, but if the problem lies with the use of a suboptimal COS protocol, transferring more embryos at a time won’t improve the chance of success. Nor will the transfer of a greater number of embryos solve an underlying embryo implantation dysfunction (anatomical molecular or immunologic).Moreover, the transfer of multiple embryos, should they implant, can and all too often does result in triplets or greater (high order multiples) which increases the incidence of maternal pregnancy-induced complications and of premature delivery with its serious risks to the newborn. It is for this reason that I rarely recommend the transfer of more than 2 embryos at a time and am moving in the direction of advising single embryo transfers …especially when it comes to transferring embryos derived through the fertilization of eggs from young women.
    4. Implantation Dysfunction (ID): Implantation dysfunction is a very common (often overlooked) cause of “unexplained” IVF failure. This is especially the case in young ovulating women who have normal ovarian reserve and have fertile partners. Failure to identify, typify, and address such issues is, in my opinion, an unfortunate and relatively common cause of repeated IVF failure in such women. Common sense dictates that if ultrasound guided embryo transfer is performed competently and yet repeated IVF attempts fail to propagate a viable pregnancy, implantation dysfunction must be seriously considered. Yet ID is probably the most overlooked factor. The most common causes of implantation dysfunction are:
    a. A“ thin uterine lining”
    b. A uterus with surface lesions in the cavity (polyps, fibroids, scar tissue)
    c. Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID)
    d. Endocrine/molecular endometrial receptivity issues
    Certain causes of infertility are repetitive and thus cannot readily be reversed. Examples include advanced age of the woman; severe male infertility; immunologic infertility associated with alloimmune implantation dysfunction (especially if it is a “complete DQ alpha genetic match between partners plus uterine natural killer cell activation (NKa).
    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
    • Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care in IVF
    • IVF: How Many Attempts should be considered before Stopping?
    • “Unexplained” Infertility: Often a matter of the Diagnosis Being Overlooked!
    • IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
    • The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
    • Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
    • Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
    • Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
    • Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
    • Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
    • Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
    • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
    • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
    • How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
    • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

    Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
    Julie Dahan
    • Email: Julied@sherivf.com
    • Phone: 702-533-2691
     800-780-7437

    Geoff Sher

    I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

  • Jennifer - November 20, 2016 reply

    Hi Dr. Sher,
    I have 8 frozen embryos (blastocysts) and trying to decide if we should do PGS testing on them. I transferred 1 fresh and it ended up being a chemical pregnancy. I transferred 1 during a FET and fortunately had my son. We are trying to give him a sibling and just completed a FET (again, transferred 1) and it resulted in another chemical. My RE is suggesting thawing, biopsying them, refreezing and then thawing again for a subsequent FET. Not sure if I want to put all that stress on the embryos though. I should mention that all these cycles are from the same 23 year old egg donor. 33% success rate seems on the low side for donor eggs, (in my humble opinion anyway) so maybe PGS testing on my remaining frozen embryos would be worth it? I would love to know your thoughts and get a second opinion. Thank You for your time!

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 20, 2016 reply

    There are those that disagree with me, but in my pinion, thawing blastocysts for PGS, only to refreeze them while awaiting a PGS result and then having to thaw them once again for FET is too traumatic and has an adverse effect on IVF outcome.

    Good luck!

    Geoff Sher

  • Linda - November 11, 2016 reply

    Hi Dr Sher, I have a question for you about PGS tested embryos. We were lucky enough to have 8 blasts to test, 1 was abnormal (trisomy 11) 5 were normal and 2 did not have enough DNA to test so they are left untested. Our ‘normal’ embryos are all early blasts but the 2 ‘untested’ are grade 3AA so they are further developed then the tested embryos. Our clinic give us a diagram and the ‘untested’ embryos look better i.e. they developed perfectly each day etc and they look stronger then the ‘normal’ ones. We are trying to decide on whether to transfer one of the normal tested ones or one of the ‘untested’ ones. Would love to know what you think! Thank you

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 12, 2016 reply

    Hi Linda,

    I would go with embryos that tested PGS normal…given the choice.

    Geoff Sher

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