A green graphic representing an embryo

NICS

Non-invasive chromosome screening is a new way to assess embryos that are not suitable for invasive surgical biopsy (PGT), enabling more embryos to be DNA-tested than was previously possible.

How does NICS work?

Embryos that do not contain the correct amount of chromosome pairs often result in miscarriage or a child born with a genetic abnormality. That risk increases rapidly when a woman gets older. Genetic testing allows these embryos to be identified before they are transferred back to the womb.

The current practice of pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT) determines if an embryo has a normal chromosome complement, or whether the embryo is abnormal, based on a sample of cells taken from the embryo. This requires 5–10% of the embryo cell mass to be removed in order for the genetic DNA test to be performed.

NICS, also referred to as non-invasive pre-implantation genetic testing, enables us to prioritise embryos for transfer by assessing chromosomes in cell-free DNA that has been released by the embryo into the culture media. As an embryo grows and the cells divide, they secrete DNA into the culture medium in which they are growing. DNA that is extracted from this culture medium can then be assessed for chromosomal status. Embryos with the appropriate chromosome complement, as assessed from sampling the culture media, would be prioritised for embryo transfer compared to other embryos. NICS complements our computerised decision-support tools, which use morphological and morphokinetic parameters to prioritise embryo selection for transfer.

Who do we recommend NICS for?

NICS is an alternative for patients who don’t want their embryos to undergo biopsy for PGT, but would still like their embryos to undergo a genetic assessment as a further embryo selection tool.

Your Newlife IVF fertility specialist will take the time to understand your personal situation and preferences, before helping you decide if genetic testing is right for you. In most cases where genetic testing is considered appropriate, your fertility specialist will usually plan to perform PGT-A due to its superior accuracy, rather than NICS.

What are the limitations?

It is important to realise that NICS is not a substitute for PGT-A.  NICS is best thought of as an embryo ranking tool. It allows us to select the embryo with the highest potential of leading to a viable pregnancy. An embryo that exhibits normal chromosomes on NICS is more likely to lead to a viable and healthy pregnancy than an embryo that does not exhibit normal chromosomes.

Embryos that fail to exhibit normal chromosomes on NICS can be normal embryos that lead to a healthy baby approximately 10% of the time.  Newlife IVF does not discard embryos on the basis of NICS results.

NICS does require that intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used for fertilisation, whereas conventional insemination is fine for PGT-A.

How much does it cost?

At Newlife IVF, NICS costs $395 per embryo.*

*Fee correct as of 1 August 2019.

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