Non-invasive predictions: visual predictive tools in IVF
(Queen Mary University of London)
Alina Geampana (Queen Mary University of London)
Paper short abstract:
This paper stems from a broader research project that investigates the case of the diffusion of Time-Lapse Imaging (TLI) tools in IVF and explores the promissory discourses on visual predictive tools as a non-invasive innovation enabling knowledge production.
Paper long abstract:
Embryo selection is essential in IVF practices to increase pregnancy rates and reduce the negative effect of repeated failures. Embryo selection techniques are currently based mainly on morphological and morphokinetic criteria or pre-implantation genetic testing (PGD/PGS). Contrary to genetic testing, TLI tools are presented as non-invasive and therefore preferable alternatives to routinely support embryo selection. In this paper, we examine the promissory discourses on TLI and its potential for knowledge production in embryology.
TLI has been recently introduced in fertility treatments and it represents a controversial and arguably revolutionary tool for IVF practice. Before its introduction, embryologists had to materially remove embryos from the incubators at rigidly defined stages of embryo development, in order to assess them and record progress. TLI tools take pictures of embryos at regular intervals and produce a large number of images for each embryo. The visual data require the creation of new knowledge infrastructures to be translated into "short videos" that allows professionals (and patients) to carefully and non-invasively observe embryos during their life in vitro.
Based on ethnographic data (observations in IVF labs and interviews with professionals) and document analysis (medical literature, manufacturers' and clinics' websites, public documents produced by other relevant stakeholders), the paper examines different laboratory practices aimed at "predicting success", including the design of in-house algorithms and patented automated tests. Particularly, the paper explores how professionals face the political implications of uncertainties, investigating how embryo prediction methods based on contentious knowledge are co-produced in the scientific research on embryo development.
Promissory encounters? Exploring innovations at the intersection of reproduction and genetics from a feminist STS perspective