Human Embryo Laboratories:

Standards Favored to Ensure Quality

HRD-90-24: Published: Dec 19, 1989. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on human embryo laboratory personnel, equipment, and procedures, focusing on laboratories with in vitro fertilization (IVF) and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) programs.

GAO found that: (1) IVF and GIFT programs achieved a 20-percent pregnancy rate and an overall 14-percent success rate in 1988; (2) variable laboratory standards made it difficult to assess laboratory practices and may have contributed to some programs' low success rates; (3) laboratory personnel varied in education and experience, but the majority of laboratory directors held doctorates and had previous related work experience; (4) most laboratories conducted routine equipment inspections and other environmental control procedures, although the frequency and methods varied; (5) the most common method used in culture media quality control was mouse embryo growth; (6) IVF and GIFT procedures regarding incubation time, sperm concentration, pre-embryo culturing, and second inseminations varied among laboratories; and (7) laboratory personnel generally favored establishing uniform staff qualification and quality control standards, although many program directors opposed standardizing techniques, because different methods achieved similar results.

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