Israel Health Scan: Watching your embryos

A new technology set to arrive at an Israeli hospital is said to increase the rate of successful pregnancies.

Pregnant woman  (illustrative)  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Pregnant woman (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The in-vitro fertilization unit lab at Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias has purchased a time-lapse embryoscope that allows continuous monitoring of embryos without removing the embryo from the incubator. This new technology, say doctors, will increase the rate of successful pregnancies.
Until now, the embryologists would remove from the incubator the embryos that are candidates for insertion into the woman once or twice a day examine them under a microscope and then return them to the incubator.
“This meant that there was no continuous image, and there was also a risk to the fetus when it is removed, due to changes in the temperature and other environmental conditions,” said Prof. Johnny Younas, director of the IVF unit.
“This makes it possible to make better choices of embryos that are more likely to be healthy and survive the pregnancy. The expensive device can be used as a teaching, training and research tool. I really see the egg after the sperm is injected into the ovum and the development of the embryo. It gives us continuous recording of the egg for six days. It’s like a controlled womb.”
Prof. Moshe Ben-Ami, director of the mother and child division, added, “The innovative device upgrades our IVF unit to the level of the leading units in Israel, and this complements our high-ranking professional team, which includes three professors, experienced embryologists and specially trained nurses.”
A new dental restoration composite developed by scientists at the University of California at Santa Barbara proves more durable than the conventional material. If you someday have to make fewer trips to the dentist, you will have mussels to thank.
Inspired by the mechanisms that the mollusks use to adhere to inhospitable surfaces, the researchers developed the new type of dental composite that provides an extra layer of durability to treated teeth. This will result in longer-lasting fillings, crowns, implants and other dental products.
“It’s as hard as a typical dental restoration but less likely to crack,” said Kollbe Ahn, a materials scientist at UCSB’s marine science institute whose findings were published recently in the journal Advanced Materials.
On average, a dental restoration lasts five to 10 or so years before needing replacement. The time frame depends on the type of restoration and how well the patient cares for the treated tooth. However, the continual onslaught of chewing, acidic and hard foods, poor hygiene, nighttime tooth grinding, weak teeth and even inadequate dental work can contribute to a filling’s early demise – and another expensive and possibly less-than pleasant experience in the dental chair.
According to Ahn, one of the primary reasons restorations fall out or crack is brittle failure of the bond with the surrounding tooth.
“All dental composites have microparticles to increase their rigidity and prevent their shrinkage during their curing process,” he explained. “But there’s a trade-off: When the composite gets harder, it gets more brittle.”
With enough pressure or wear and tear, a crack forms, which then propagates throughout the entire restoration. Or, the gap between the tooth and the restoration results in restoration failures, including marginal tooth decay.
So Ahn and his colleagues looked to nature – mussels, to be exact – to find a way not only to maintain strength and hardness but also to add durability. Having perfected the art of adhering to irregular surfaces under the variable conditions of the intertidal zone – evolving to resist pounding waves, the blazing heat of the sun and cycles of saltwater immersion and windy dryness – mussels presented the ideal model for more durable dental restoration materials. The byssal threads they use to affix to surfaces allow them to resist the forces that would tear them from their moorings.
“In nature, the soft collagenous core of the mussel’s byssal threads is protected by a five-to-10 micrometer- thick, hard coating, which is also extensible and thus, tough,” Ahn said. This durability and flexibility allow the mollusks to stick to wet mineral surfaces in harsh environments that involve repeated push-and-pull stress.
This type of bonding occurs in many biological systems, including animal bone and tooth. The mussel’s byssus contain a high number of unique chemical functional groups called catechols, which are used to prime and promote adhesion to wet mineral surfaces. The new study shows that using a catecholic coupling agent instead of the conventional silane coupling agent provides 10 times higher adhesion and a 50% increase in toughness compared to current dental restorative resin composites.
This study also demonstrated no cytotoxicity. The next step, Ahn said, is to increase the material’s durability even further.
“By changing the molecular design you could have even denser coupling agents that exist on the surface, and then we could have a stronger and more durable dental composite,” he said, estimating a commercial product within a couple of years.