Two women taking part in the world's first controlled study of a comprehensive genetic screening test before IVF have given birth to healthy babies.
The babies, twin girls born in Germany in June and a singleton boy born in Italy in September, are the first deliveries in a pilot study of comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) by microarray.
The births are the final stage in the "proof of principal" that the screening of oocytes and embryos before transfer in IVF can increase birth rates.
"We have learnt from more than 30 years of IVF that many of the embryos we transfer have chromosome abnormalities," explained ESHRE's chairman Luca Gianaroli.
"The whole world of IVF has been trying to find an effective way of screening for these abnormalities for more than a decade, but results so far have been disappointing with the technology available. Now we have a new technology in array CGH and our hopes are that this will finally provide a reliable means of assessing the chromosomal status of the embryos we transfer," she added.
The CGH technique allows analysis on oocytes and not on embryos; it also allows accurate prediction of the chromosomal status of the transferred embryo (with no more than a 10 per cent error rate as found in the ESHRE study.
"It is the first time that a scientific society like ESHRE has organised a study to determine the clinical value of a technique which could prove a revolution in IVF," said Dr Cristina Magli, embryologist at the SISMER Centre in Bologna.
The next step for ESHRE will be to upgrade the pilot study into a large-scale international clinical trial, which is planned to start in 2011.